Therapy Dog ‘Tinder’ Helps Children With Disabilities

By  //  November 11, 2013

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Tinder is black as night, but his heart is golden

ABOVE VIDEO: Tinder is the first Canine Companions for Independence CCI facility dog in Brevard County to work in an animal assisted therapy program at a pediatric occupational therapy clinic.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA — The Labrador/Golden Retriever cross has been helping humans since he was eight weeks old.

As the center of the animal assisted therapy program at 7 Senses Therapy in Melbourne, Tinder, in his loving and unique way, works miracles, gently helping children with disabilities improve their physical, educational, social, emotional and cognitive functioning, often without the youngsters even realizing it.

INMATES PROVIDED BASIC TRAINING

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CANINE COMPANIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The most advanced technology capable of transforming the lives of people with disabilities has a cold nose and a warm heart. (CCI images)

Tinder is the first Canine Companions for Independence CCI facility dog in Brevard County to work in an animal assisted therapy program at a pediatric occupational therapy clinic.

Bred in California by CCI, Tinder was first sent to the Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida, where select inmates provided the basic obedience skills, socialization and unconditional love necessary for him to evolve into a service dog.

Tinder repaid the inmates’ kindness by helping them to cope with and heal from their past, and face their future as they demonstrated responsibility and enjoyed the pride of a job well-done.

“They did a great job training him,” said Lauren Flores, who, along with husband Alex, owns Tinder. “Not all puppies pass and graduate, but Tinder did with flying colors.”

CCI PROVIDES SERVICE DOGS AT NO COST

When he turned one year old, Tinder moved on to the Southeast facilities of CCI in Orlando, where he entered the organization’s highly specialized training program. The Orlando training center is one of five similar facilities across the United States.

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THE DOGS ARE TAUGHT to open and close doors and drawers and interactive commands that allow them to place their heads in a person’s lap, possibly step on footplates of a wheelchair and to comfortably and quietly hang out in an office setting when not working. They are able to pick up dropped items, carry items from one place to another and a variety of other tasks.” (CCI image)

The national nonprofit has provided 4,000 service dogs at no cost to individuals with disabilities, as well as several hundred animals to assist humans in facilities such as 7 Senses Therapy.

Paco IV, the new facility dog at Viera Hospital, is another CCI graduate, as is Dart at Holmes Regional Medical Center.

At the age of 15 months, service dogs undergo a rigorous six to nine-month specialized training regimen that prepares them for their future job.

“The dogs are taught to open and close doors and drawers and interactive commands that allow them to place their heads in a person’s lap, possibly step on footplates of a wheelchair and to comfortably and quietly hang out in an office setting when not working.

“During the professional training process, Tinder went through training for basic commands and was also taught a variety of advance skills,” said Lori Lindsay, program manager for CCI’s Southeast Region.

“The dogs are taught to open and close doors and drawers and interactive commands that allow them to place their heads in a person’s lap, possibly step on footplates of a wheelchair and to comfortably and quietly hang out in an office setting when not working.

They are able to pick up dropped items, carry items from one place to another and a variety of other tasks.”

PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING MAKE FOR A PERFECT FACILITATOR

As a facility dog, Tinder went even a step further.

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BREEDER DOGS and their puppies are the foundation of Canine Companions for Independence. They carefully select and breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two after an intensive evaluation process. (Image for SpaceCoastDaily.com)

“Facility dogs are a different type of placement (from a traditional service dog), because rather than being able to work with one person, they have to be able to work with a variety of people,” said Lindsay.

At 7 Senses, Tinder is a one-dog cheerleader for the kids, many of whom have difficulties with fine motor skills, gross motor skills and coordination.

“Tinder is creatively incorporated into the treatments to assist the children in improving their skills and to be an encouragement,” said Flores.

He seems limitless in his patience and his interest in helping, pushing objects to the kids, holding items in his mouth for them to reach and even pulling them on a scooter board. The children dress him up to work on their buttoning skills. Even when the children are asked to perform a “not-so-much-fun” task, Tinder is there to motivate

He seems limitless in his patience and his interest in helping, pushing objects to the kids, holding items in his mouth for them to reach and even pulling them on a scooter board. The children dress him up to work on their buttoning skills. Even when the children are asked to perform a “not-so-much-fun” task, Tinder is there to motivate.

“After they complete the task, they get to pet and play with him,” said Flores. “He is such a helper and is always ready to greet each family as they come in the very nature of a dog makes the animal a perfect facilitator for the disabled.

“It’s easier to get someone to stretch muscles by petting or brushing a dog rather than through what may be painful exercises,” said Lindsay. “It is easier to get kids to work on saying a dog’s name and giving commands rather than typical speech work.”

PLACEMENT STRINGENT AND SELECTIVE

Although CCI carefully breeds the animals for temperament and intelligence, not all candidates cut it.

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LAUREN FLORES, along with husband Alex, owns Tinder. CCI continually evaluates our dogs to determine which type of placement they would be best in working and to ensure that their temperaments are appropriate for a working dog.

“CCI continually evaluates our dogs to determine which type of placement they would be best in working and to ensure that their temperaments are appropriate for a working dog,” said Lindsay. “We want to be sure that our dogs enjoy their work and that we’re putting out the best possible product for our clients.”

Tinder was already trained when Lauren and Alex Flores received him from CCI, but he and his new masters got comfortable with each other during a two-week training session at the CCI campus in Orlando.

“In essence, they were training us to work with him,” said Lauren Flores. “He knows about 40 different commands. After that, it was up to us to use him creatively in our therapy sessions utilizing what he already knew.”

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The dog can hold letter cards in his mouth for the children to work on their handwriting. (Space Coast Medicine & Active Living image)

Flores has designed different activities for Tinder to complete with the children at the clinic. “One of the activities we developed for Tinder at our clinic includes rolling a ball down a ramp to encourage social skills and cooperative play with the clients,” said Flores.

The dog can hold letter cards in his mouth for the children to work on their handwriting. Flores also asks the children to design an obstacle course for Tinder so they in turn can practice sequencing skills.

Tinder steadfastly holds on to the end of a string while the children string beads on the other end to work on their fine motor and coordination skills. He even anticipates what is expected of him.

“He may see me setting up his dog jump as part of an obstacle course with the children and in the next minute, he is sitting by my side as if to say, “I’m here, don’t you need me for this?”

INSTINCTIVE ABILITY

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The animal instinctively knows when the kids need cheering.

The animal instinctively knows when the kids need cheering. Tinder also has a great sense about when some of the children are upset,” said Flores. “Some of our clients tend to get very anxious. One day was especially stressful for one of them.

Without us saying anything to him, Tinder went over to the child and put his head on his lap. The child began to calm down as he stroked Tinder’s head.

Many of our children walk into the clinic and immediately ask “Where is Tinder?” They can’t wait for him to come around the corner and greet them!”

FOR MORE INFORMATION call 321-255-7779 or visit 7SensesTherapy.com


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