Therapy Dog Program Making Strides with Disabled Foundation

Therapy Dog Program Making Strides with Disabled Foundation

Dogs are man's best friend, and that's truly evident in a new program recently started at the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Dogs are man's best friend, and that's truly evident in a new program recently started at the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee.

The southeast Memphis organization is using therapy dogs to help improve the well-being of intellectually disabled children and adults, and the program is already making a major impact.

Whenever "Boss" walks into a room at the Exceptional Foundation, he's always greeted with love and attention.

Foundation Executive Director, Jo Anne Fusco, is also the founder of the animal-assisted group therapy program there. Dogs like "Boss" are used to help intellectually disabled kids and adults learn and practice daily living skills.

"It’s just amazing to see the things we see everyday," she said, "The dogs can do more than the doctors."

The work is also being used as a part of a research study by the University of Memphis to determine how these animals can help those with mental disabilities. Researcher Katherine Brown says the positive impact is undeniable.

"The attention span, the focus, cooperation, compliance, physical movement - all of those can come together and just improve the overall level of functioning on a day to day basis for the individual. You kind of get those chills because it’s so heart warming."

Fusco believes that “Boss” benefits just as much as those who are being served by the Exceptional Foundation. Her hope is that his love will continue to impact lives.

"He loves it, he loves it. It feels great, I feel like the dogs do all the work and I’m along for the ride."

Researchers are into week 5 of an 8-week study into the true effectiveness of the therapy dog program. If successful, the program could quite possibly be a model for how to effectively help folks with mental disabilities.

They’re also in meetings with administrators at Memphis International Airport to possibly bring the therapy dogs to the airport to help folks who have a fear of flying, so this research could have a pretty wide-ranging impact.

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