Canines Aid a Community in Need

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COURTNEY TRZCINSKI: My background has been mostly nonprofit and higher education. I am from this area, for the most part, and grew up here and have been really passionate about helping the community. My mind is thinking about CAT-- we call ourselves CAT-- pretty much every minute of the day. And then when I get home, I open up my computer, and I go right back to it, because I want to see, what did I miss during my drive home?

We started in 2009 with two dogs mainly with nursing homes. And as the organization grew, we were kind of noticing things in the community that we could help. So then we added different programs. And we now have over 120 dogs in our organization that are certified. We also have a waiting list of about 65 facilities and schools. So I am trying to recruit, train, evaluate, certify more therapy teams.

We're in a lot of hospice facilities. We also work with special needs individuals. So we're in a lot of special needs facilities. We go into a PTSD and an anger management class. We go to the oncology department, and, while they're getting chemo, they're being distracted, because there's a dog there.

There was a child who had had surgery and needed to get out of bed and have physical therapy. The nurses couldn't get him to do it. His parents couldn't get him to do it. The doctors couldn't get him to do it. We walked in with a dog and let the child pet the dog. And then she said, you know, I really need to take this dog for a walk. Would you like to come? So he got out of bed, and they walked the hospital corridor visiting other patients in the hospital.


A long time ago, there wasn't much research done on this, but, lately, there has been a lot of research and studies done to see what the effects and benefits are of pet therapy. And what they found is, after spending just 10 minutes with a dog, endorphins are released in the body, and these endorphins decrease depression and improve cardiovascular health overall. What I find very interesting is, they also did a study on the dogs, and they found that, just like humans, when a dog is being pet and loved and given affection, their body is releasing endorphins also. So it's very cool that it's actually a win-win for the human and the animal.


Unfortunately, last year, on February 14th, there was a mass shooting in our community. And the next morning, in Parkland, they had set up three counseling and crisis centers. We had over 50 therapy dogs there the morning that school started. A lot of students said that the reason they came back and the only reason they came back to school was because they knew the therapy dogs were going to be waiting for them.

It makes all my hard work feel worth it to know that we are making that big of a difference. We are actually potentially saving lives as well as helping and healing in people's lives. And we firmly believe that medicine can come on four paws.