GSHS animal finds new calling as therapy dog
April 30 is National Therapy Animal Day, and Eureka Springs native Dr. Artie will celebrate by comforting those in need. In less than a year, Artie has transitioned from a shelter dog to a therapy animal.
Artie was adopted by Good Shepherd Humane Society board president Jay Fusaro and wife Rosemary last year. Fusaro recalled receiving a call from shelter manager Sandra Mittler about Artie, saying Artie was left in an apartment with a cat after the apartment's owner was evicted. The landlord brought Artie and the cat to Good Shepherd, Fusaro said, and the rest is history.
"Sandra saw his disposition and contacted us about possibly adopting him," Fusaro said. "We brought him home for a sleepover he never left. We're really happy to get him. He has a really, really sweet disposition."
Fusaro took Artie to PetSmart for training, where he was encouraged to enroll Artie in therapy animal training. To become a therapy animal, Fusaro said, Artie completed four levels of training 末beginner, intermediate, advanced and therapy animal training 末 over 24 weeks.
"So we call him Dr. Artie," Fusaro said. "We say he has his doctorate."
To become a real therapy animal, Fusaro said, Artie needed to be sponsored by a company. Fusaro said he and Rosemary chose to work with Pet Partners, a national organization that promotes the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities and education. Pet Partners covers Artie with a liability policy, Fusaro said.
"So when you go somewhere, in case someone trips over a leash or the dog, you don't get sued personally," Fusaro said. "It also gives the organization you're going to 末 a hospital, a nursing home 末 some level of comfort that you have proper training."
Since Artie completed his training, Fusaro said, he has visited a nursing home in Berryville and the students at Alpena High School.
"It's been really good for Artie, and it's been really good for me to give back to the community," Fusaro said. "People really enjoy it. It just brings a lot of joy and light to the people we visit."
Fusaro said he plans to take Artie to the Fayetteville VA and Washington Regional Hospital soon, saying he's excited to see Artie help people in and around Carroll County. What makes Artie so special, Fusaro said, is his kind disposition. He said it's important for therapy animals to be gentle, kind and trainable.
"If you're not interacting with the dog, the dog's not bothersome. He can sit or lay down," Fusaro said. "He needs to get along well with other dogs, be good in crowds and really pay attention to the basic commands 末 no barking and no jumping on people."
Fusaro encouraged others in the community to consider enrolling their pets in therapy animal training. All it takes, Fusaro said, is an animal with a good disposition and a lot of training.
"All different kinds of animals can be therapy animals. Most are dogs, but they have therapy animal cats and therapy animal horses," Fusaro said. "I'd encourage people to look into organizations such as Pet Partners to join up with, because it's a very worthwhile experience."