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Four-footed therapists bring joy and companionship

By Jane Furuseth

Special to the Pioneer

Beltrami County Dog Therapy is one of 22 stations the Retired Senior Volunteer Program partners with in our community.  The organization provides qualified handlers and their dogs for friendly visits to nursing facilities, schools, hospitals, libraries, hospice programs, Boys & Girls Club and treatment centers.

The mission of the therapy dog and handler is to provide comfort and companionship. For the people being visited, and the staff that cares for these people, a visit with a therapy dog can increase emotional well-being, promote healing and improve quality of life.

Therapy dogs bring joy to a long day, provide a happy subject for conversation and rekindle memories of long ago pets.  

Paul Bunyan Dog Training Association will be having a six-week therapy dog training course on Mondays, starting June 17 and running through July 22. The course will be held 6 to 8 p.m. at the Beltrami County fairgrounds in the 4-H building.  Cost is $60.  

For more information about the therapy dog course, or to register, contact Tracy Parthun at (218) 766-4935.

Upon completion of training therapy dog teams have the opportunity to be certified as AKC Canine Good Citizens, or go on to be certified with Therapy Dogs International.

Therapy dogs and their owners who receive further training can also volunteer as “reading canines.”

This program has owner and dog teams go to schools and libraries as reading companions for students. Dogs can’t read, but they can be great listeners.

They are ideal reading companions because they increase relaxation, listen attentively, do not judge, laugh or criticize, allow children to proceed at their own pace and are less intimidating than peers.

More Bemidji Area Reading Canine (B.A.R.C.) teams are needed to visit area schools.

Dog therapy volunteers and their trained dogs provide monthly friendly visits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as Adult Day Services and the Developmental Achievement Center. Bemidji Area Reading Canines listen to students read at several Bemidji schools, plus Cass Lake, Laporte and Bagley schools, the Bemidji Public Library and the Boys & Girls Club.  

For more information about being an RSVP volunteer with Beltrami County Dog Therapy or BARC Reading Canines program, contact Jane Furuseth, RSVP/America Reads Area Coordinator at( 218) 766-9494 or email:

RSVP volunteers are age 55 and older, benefit from liability insurance coverage while volunteering, and may request mileage reimbursement.