Faculty and their pets make a difference

In recent years, the number of organizations dedicated to volunteer work worldwide has increased considerably; alongside this has come a wide expansion in diversity.

Delta Society is an international, non-profit organization with a unique mission. Utilizing professionally trained therapy animals, Delta Society is dedicated to providing medical support to millions of Americans suffering from physical and mental difficulties.

"The value of animals in promoting healing and growth is becoming increasingly recognized among professional care providers, clinical practitioners, and educators," states www.uaata.org, the Web site of Delta Society’s sister organization, Utah Animal-Assisted Therapy Association (UAATA).

UVSC staff members Karen Mizell and Jennifer Brown, alongside their trained dogs Jette and Nixie, respectively, actively volunteer with Delta Society and UAATA.

Mizell, who has volunteered with these organizations for several years, assists an elementary school reading program within the county. Through this program, students are selected to read to Jette unaccompanied. As they read, Mizell makes no attempts to correct their pronunciation. This approach encourages the student and boosts their confidence, according to Mizell.

The students’ reading comprehension levels were tested before and after working with Jette. "All of the students within the program registered increases in their reading comprehension," Mizell said. "I’ve learned my most important lessons about teaching from my dog."

Brown, who only recently moved to Utah, joined Delta Society and UAATA this January.

"I’ve tried very hard to get involved with my community," Brown said, "this gave me the opportunity to do community service, as well as spend time with my animal."

Brown volunteers at the Utah State Hospital in Provo; she works to help educate male teens between the ages of 12 and 18. Through Nixie’s support, the boys become more interactive and retain a greater amount of their lesson, according to Brown.

Delta Society and UAATA are rigorously maintained. To join the organizations, both the animal and animal owner are extensively tested.

According to Brown, she was required to complete an eight-hour class, an animal behavior test and a written test. In addition, members are required to pay a fee and re-certify every two years.

As medical practices expand, organizations like Delta Society offer new methods to treat those struggling within our world.

The benefits are great for the volunteers, as well: Through being active with Delta Society, "I’ve had the opportunity to network with other pet lovers, as well as the satisfaction of doing volunteer work," Brown said.

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