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Animal-Assisted Therapy

Author Barry Schieber chronicles his experience working with Moritz, a Bernese Mountain Dog trained as a therapy dog for hospital patients.

For millennia, dogs have enjoyed the eminent and indisputable distinction of being man's best friend. But as author Barry Schieber chronicles in his new book, "Nose to Nose: A Memoir of Healing," in many cases, the canine's virtues extend far beyond his long-standing role as most-trusted companion. While recuperating from emergency surgery a few years ago, the author learned that dogs can in fact be partners in healing -- something Moritz, his beloved Bernese Mountain Dog, illustrated by the simple eloquence of his example.

After his initial recovery in Switzerland, Barry bought Moritz, who was then a puppy, and brought him back to his home in western Montana. Although Barry had never considered owning any dog -- let alone one that would soon tip the scales 120 pounds -- he soon found that his "gentle giant" had a wonderful temperament and, much to his astonishment, a natural therapeutic capability. More specifically, Barry explains, Moritz seems to have an inherent ability to help heal the infirmed. For this reason, after his own recovery, Barry contacted the Delta Society Pet Partners Program, which trained him to share Moritz's merits with others via weekly volunteer visits to a local hospital. During their visits, the two go from room to room with a hospital assistant, visiting those patients who want to spend time with Moritz. According to Barry, during the visits such patients often seem to forget their ailments, which range from surgery-related infirmity to gunshot wounds.

For more information or to become involved with animal-assisted therapy, contact Therapy Dogs International or your local chapter of the Delta Society Pet Partners Program.