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Upcoming W.A.G.S. Events
2014 Membership Meeting Dates:
    - April 12
   - May 10
   -
***June 7***
   -  July 12
   -  Aug 9
   - Sept 13
   - Oct 11
   - Nov 8
   -  Dec 13

***Please note that the February and June meetings are on the 1st Saturday instead of the 2nd Saturday of the month***

WAGS Orientation EVENING Schedule
CLICK HERE

2014 Continuing Education Schedule
CLICK HERE


2014 Evaluation Dates & WAGS 101 Class Info Click Here
  
 
Click Here For More Information
 
Volunteers Needed

Almost all facilities on the WAGS visitation schedule need visiting Ambassador teams and/or subs. Please contact Tammy Harrod, Facilities Chairperson, at tammylharrod@gmail.com  for the complete schedule and volunteers needed.
Click Here For More Opportunities

WAGS needs your help! Please consider donating your used Delta Training manual for use by new Ambassador teams in training for WAGS 101. WAGS will provide you with a chaitable donation voucher for your taxes for $25 for each donation. Bring your used Delta Training manual to future membership meetings for drop off.


There are numerous upcoming Volunteer Opportunities
Click Here For Opportunity Details








 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



















 
 
Welcome To W.A.G.S. - Pet Therapy of Kentucky, Inc.
WAGS (Wonderful Animals Giving Support) Pet Therapy of Kentucky, Inc. is a non-profit, volunteer organization based in Louisville since 1999. WAGS members believe in the special – often healing – bond between people and animals. The mission of WAGS is to bring people and pets together for companionship and therapy.

To accomplish this goal, WAGS Ambassador teams have volunteered thousands of hours in over 40 facilities in the Kentuckiana area providing animal-assisted activities and
animal-assisted therapy. Participation in visitation presents 150 WAGS members with a unique opportunity to give back to the community and share their wonderful, loving pets with those in need.
News & Info
For Members

Therapy Dog Helps Troops Deal with Postwar Stress

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — After three deployments to Iraq and three to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Dennis Swols is agitated, prone to bouts of anger and unable to really talk about his time on the battlefield.

But as Swols sits in a small office in the Robinson Health Clinic at Fort Bragg, his hand drops to the furry head beside him and his mood brightens. Settled at his feet, Lexy, a 5-year-old German shepherd, gives Swols a few moments of distraction.

It's her job. And, according to Swols, she's good at it.

"I have a hard time talking to people about my deployments and everything," says Swols, who is with the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team. After taking part in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the march into Baghdad in 2003, he's been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. "But having her here, I just pet Lexy. Or I'm just sitting here and we won't talk about deployments, we'll just (talk) about the dog. ... My day is better every time I come in."

For 82nd Airborne psychiatrist Maj. Christine Rumayor, Lexy is a partner, a conversation starter and a living, breathing medical tool that can calm a patient and make a therapy appointment a little more enjoyable.

A slowly evolving form of treatment, animal therapy is used in only a few other Army installations, including Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. A small number of dogs like Lexy are being used almost as co-therapists. Others routinely work as service animals and are often used for animal-assisted therapy, including in visits to patients in the hospitals.

Lexy's move into therapy was unexpected. Rumayor decided to put her new puppy through the training when she realized Lexy was less of a guard dog and more of a calm cuddler. So, Lexy went through about 2½ years of training before she was able to pin on her rank — she's a lieutenant colonel — and become certified as Fort Bragg's only therapy dog.

As the Army struggles to address the broad swath of stress disorders and mental health problems brought on by more than a decade of war, one of the biggest hurdles is getting soldiers to put aside the bravado and seek treatment. Lexy, it turns out, is particularly good at that.

Van Woodruff, who was a sergeant first class, went to his scheduled appointment just a few days before he was set to get his medical retirement and move out of the Army after 13 years in the service.

"It's hard for me to come to these appointments. I can't really sit in the waiting room," said Woodruff, who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. "I don't look forward to this whole process of being here. ... The whole process of being here is something that's agitative to my diagnosis."

But on a sunny Wednesday morning, the Alabama native is sitting in Rumayer's office. "This is the only one I look forward to going to because of Lexy. I love dogs."

Rumayor, who wrote the Fort Bragg policy that allows her to use Lexy in her practice, said there was resistance at first.

"You don't want everybody to think they can just bring their dog to work," she said.

Rumayor also has seen what an asset the dog can be in getting soldiers to seek out therapy and consistently attend their appointments.

Walking around the base, she uses Lexy as a lightning rod to attract soldiers, then draws them into conversation. On any given day, she and Lexy will wander over to the motor pool or anywhere troops might gather, to see who might be interested in having a chat.

"Stigma is one of the huge things the military is trying super hard to overcome — behavioral health stigma being the biggest one, I think. And Lexy is probably the biggest asset I have in overcoming that stigma," Rumayor said. "There's nothing better than coming to an appointment where you get to have a warm fuzzy thing that you get to pet all the time. People don't want to come in the door. When they see her coming in, it makes them want to come in the door."

And often the soldiers reward her.

On her vest, Lexy sports an Army Ranger tab and a spray of other badges and patches that she got from patients. The special forces tab came from a soldier who had been injured in a roadside bomb blast, and Lexy and Rumayor visited him in the hospital.

Navy Capt. Robert Koffman, the senior consultant for behavioral health at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, has a therapy dog of his own, named Ron. And he's seen the broad impact the dogs can have.

Ron, a 3-year-old golden retriever/labrador mix, holds the rank of a one-star general and his designated military occupation is a "psych tech." He's even trained to bring tissues to distressed patients and put his head on a person's lap if he or she is stressed.

Lt. Col. Matthew St. Laurent, who is the occupational therapy chief at Walter Reed, said the use of dogs to aid therapy has been endorsed by U.S. Army Medical Command and appears to be getting more support across the military. Both he and Koffman said additional research is needed to determine how and when it is best to use the animals.

"It's tough for anybody to go to their mental health provider," said St. Laurent, who also runs the Therapeutic Service Dog Training Program. "But they need to see mental health providers and if you're introduced to the mental health community by a fluffy, loving canine, you'd be more inclined to come to the clinic and pet the dog. And one thing leads to another, and you're in the clinic."

 

Ambassador Team News
Thank you to WAGS Ambassador Team, Audra Schlegel and Moose

A letter from a family member Good morning, Ms. Graeter: My name is Kim Kremer Elliott, and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the WAGS therapy dogs yesterday. Moose and his person Audra Herwald Schlegel came to to visit my father yesterday at Norton Browsboro; in fact, they made a special trip in to see him after being contacted by the floor nurses. Moose was gentle and kind, and Audra was excellent at communicating with my father, even though he couldn't talk. During the visit, my father calmed down and perked up. He's always been a lover of large dogs, and Moose fit that bill! He was able to pet Moose and even get nose-to-nose with him for some puppy love. My father's breathing evened out and he appeared to be less stressed during this visit, which I know was because of Moose! My father passed away this morning, and I truly believe that Moose's visit allowed him the peace and love of an animal to be calm and move on. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate Audra and Moose, and the service you provide to the community. WAGS certainly made a wonderful, positive difference for my father's last hours. Thank you for all the excellent work you and the WAGS team do.

My warmest thanks,
Kim