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History of Therapy Dogs

Credit for being the first therapy dog is often given to a Yorkshire terrier named Smokey, who was found by American soldiers in the New Guinea jungle in 1944 during World War II. Smokey performed field work for the remainder of the war in the Pacific and also was a morale booster for injured soldiers.


More recently, a registered nurse named Elaine Smith, an American who worked in the United Kingdom for a time, observed how positively her patients reacted to a chaplin’s golden retriever. Based on this experience, when she got back to the U.S. in 1976, she founded Therapy Dogs International, TDI . TDI was formed so that dogs could be tested, certified, insured, and registered as Volunteer Therapy Dogs and is the oldest therapy dog organization in the US. The first TDI therapy dog visit took place in New Jersey in 1976 with 5 handlers and six dogs. Of the dogs, 5 were German shepherds and one was a collie.


Over the years, other health care professionals have noted the therapeutic effects of animals such as promoting decrease in blood pressure, decrease in stress, and an increase in spirits. More recently, therapy dogs have been enlisted in such varied tasks as helping war veterans deal with stress, helping children overcome speech and emotional disorders as well as lending an ear in schools for children to practice reading skills.

About Caring Canines

Caring Canines Therapy Dog Club of Southern Vermont was formed by a group of 7 people in the spring of 2002 at North Star Dog Training in Tinmouth, VT.  After some discussion and research, it was decided that there was a need for a group of therapy dog teams in the mid to Southern part of the state. Bylaws were formulated, insurance acquired, and a therapy dog test designed.  The first evaluation was held in the fall of 2002.  The original roster consisted of 17 teams and the first official visits were made at the Loretto Home and Saint Joseph Kervick Residence in Rutland, VT.


Our teams have continued to visit these two assisted living facilities every month since. We have grown from the original 17 teams to over 60 and we make visits to over 30 different facilities. These include adult day care centers, schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities. We are an AKC Recognized Therapy Dog Organization. 

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