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Paw on heart – we get to know Alaska, the Naturavetal family’s therapy dog

We humans and our dogs have evolved together since time immemorial. The hunters and gatherers settled down, the wild predator joined them and, not without self-interest, let itself be domesticated. We have been looking after each other for millennia,and we pet owners are responsible for a long, healthy, happy life together. This strong bond has become even stronger over the last few decades.

Therapy dog in operation

Nowadays there are many special dogs that do something special for people on an everyday basis. The fantastic work of therapy dogs comes as no surprise. The owners of these animals know well that the dogs have to be in top form and full of vitality, and must always have the nerve and desire to do their job, which ideally won’t feel like work at all. Alaska, the Swiss Shepherd bitch, is a wonderful young dog with whom we were privileged to become acquainted with as part of the Naturavetal family. During her regular hospital visits she meets a lot of people and plays her part in their recovery and well-being. Her story and her work speak for themselves, and we are pleased that our food continues to keep her in top form.

The first days of a therapy dog

When Linda-Maria Vietz took the white Swiss Shepherd bitch Alaska from the breeder at 8 weeks of age it was already obvious that the dog would complete her training course as a therapy dog. Frau Vietz, who had been training dogs for over 10 years in the Ederbergland Sporting Dog Club, found out about this from a report on the positive impact animals have on humans and the special role a therapy dog can play in the lives of vulnerable people.

Fired with enthusiasm, Frau Vietz made enquiries about this type of training. So even in her early formative stage Alaska had to become familiar with many different sounds, children, other people and dogs. Right from the start Alaska proved to be good with people and a willing worker. Then, as now, Alaska is very observant and learns incredibly quickly.

How can a therapy dog help?

Alaska accompanies Frau Vietz to the hospital every day. There they visit patients having chemotherapy, palliative patients and heart attack patients among others. They also pay regular visits to an in-patient hospice and a residential home. Frau Vietz passionately describes how simple and yet how magical an effect dogs can have on people: “ For a short time they forget their suffering, are diverted or learn something new. So much is possible with animal-assisted therapy.” It also awakens lovely memories in older people who used to keep animals themselves.The feel of warm fur, the contented puffing and panting when you are fooling around, the shining eyes when the dog is being scratched, and the nose or paw lovingly placed on the patient’s leg, a definite invitation for a  tickle! People don’t need to be asked twice. Alaska is fully committed to “her” patients and has a calming, mood-lifting effect on them – she always gives 100%. Alaska  even gets into bed with patients if they are not able to get up. And these positive effects on sick people have been verified by a lot of experience and study,which is why four-legged therapists now pay regular visits to so many hospitals and public institutions such as nurseries and old people’s homes.

The beneficial effect of animal-assisted therapy

The positive effects of animal-assisted therapy in the physiological sphere include reducing blood pressure, stabilising the cardiovascular system, improving balance and coordination; examples in the social sphere are conveying affection and a sense of well-being, a real ice-breaker.Therapy encourages easier conversation, inhibitions are overcome, and the emotional results encourage activity, improve self-esteem, stabilise conditions and alleviate anxiety. What is more, Frau Vietz and Alaska carry out all their commitments and visits on a voluntary unpaid basis. Both of them need snacks for their great work, and the patients feed Alaska hers with great enthusiasm. It can even happen that patients use Starry Fish Snacks to solve or set Alaska small tasks, and then she has to wait patiently until she is fed her tidbits.

Therapy dogs in everyday life

Of course Alaska is also allowed to be a dog and enjoy herself on long walks with doggy friends with whom she can romp around as much as she likes. The two of them have also started Canicross and still want to take part in Rally Obedience. Alaska loves playing hiding games, for even a therapy dog needs relaxation to counteract the great responsibility: Alaska has to read a patient’s mood like lightning and adapt to it, she has to expect exaggerated or sudden noises or gestures from patients and take these comfortably in her stride without herself becoming nervous. Such concentration takes its toll. This makes it all the more important to eat healthy food with vital natural nutrients to promote stamina, performance and concentration in a natural way. Frau Vietz knows this, and ensures 100% natural quality  feeding by feeding Alaska daily with Canis Plus Poultry or Sport, and snacks as well.

This superior relationshilp  is the result of a great upbringing and bond between Alaska and her mistress, aided by healthy nourishment for the nerves. A natural species-appropriate feeding with plenty of meat and absolutely no synthetic additives or flavourings keep the body and soul healthy and ready for such fantastic work. Alaska loves to demonstratethis the whole day long. Fed, loved and encouraged in a species-appropriate way, Alaska the therapy dog lives a happy contented life in the service of her patients.

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