Thought that headline might get your attention. Betty White is my 11-pound, bichon-poodle mix that I adopted last year from a shelter in California. Who gets rid of a dog this cute deserves a special place in hell, but that’s another post for another day.
This post is about her desire to become a real-life Tennessee Volunteer. Thankfully, I stumbled across a wonderful local organization called HABIT (Human Animal Bond in Tennessee).
HABIT trains dogs (and their humans) for animal-assisted activities (AAA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT). This includes visiting schools (kids feel more comfortable reading to the dogs and the dogs think they’re getting attention – adorable!), nursing homes, retirement centers, mental health facilities, youth rehab centers and hospice programs.
Dog-lovers can attest to the healing powers of playing with a sweet furball, but research shows that AAA and AAT can decrease emotional/physical pain, improve confidence/socialization and reduce anxiety.
Established in 1986 and comprised of representatives from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, volunteers from the community and private veterinary practitioners, HABIT currently has over 400 members working with 70 different programs.
They have a lengthy process (for obvious reasons) to become an official volunteer, but Betty White and I took the first step by attending an informational meeting (PDF download) this weekend. Next up is to submit paperwork including health, vaccinations and personality background. And from there, we participate in a scheduled behavioral evaluation (completed by UT staff) and then (assuming she passes!) program placement…
So stay tuned as we train Betty White to officially become a Tennessee Vol!