The momentum which had started to build in 2014 really carried through into 2015 as the community began to take note of what CTDS was all about: helping people through our great dogs. Not only did CTDS introduce it’s third program (“Caring Tails”) in January but continued to expand both “Listening Tails” and “Visiting Tails” into new areas.
- Listening Tails (LT): Having started the year in the Chestermere Public Library as well as East Lake School, interest in the program has grown to the point where we were able to roll out LT into Prairie Waters, Rainbow Creek and Chestermere Middle School in Chestermere and also Westmount and Brentwood Elementary schools in Strathmore. Enquiries have come to me from Cranston school in Calgary which we are looking to develop in 2016. Feedback from both teachers and parents is that LT has not only ignited the children’s interest in reading but has also brought the additional benefit of giving them the confidence to participate in class discussions.
- Visiting Tails (VT): whilst continuing to service Prince of Peace, we now find ourselves helping Sagewood Seniors’ Community and Wheatland Lodge in Strathmore as well as two Chartwell seniors’ facilities in Calgary, located at Eau Claire and Mission. We have received a number of heart-warming comments and emails recognizing the positive effect that our therapy dogs are having on the residents (and staff)
- Caring Tails (CT): CT is looked upon as being a little different in scope than both LT and VT in as much as we are often reacting to situations rather than having scheduled events taking place. A good example of this was in the summer when two teenagers were tragically killed on the #1 highway near Chestermere. We were able to take our dogs into the Chestermere High School to help students get through the ordeal of losing a close friend. Help was also given to the Community Learning Centre as well as a young gentleman living in Strathmore who is experiencing a multitude of health issues. Our dogs were also seen twice more at the Chestermere High School over exam times. And the latest school to benefit from our CT program is Henry Wise Wood School in Calgary where one of our handlers visits twice a month with the senior high students to help them de-stress.
So far relations with the Strathmore Victim Support group have not developed the way we first envisaged but there is plenty of scope to expand our involvement in the months ahead. Finally, following a presentation I did to Alberta Health Services at the Chestermere Health Centre in the early Fall, I am expecting our relationship to develop in future as a number of therapists based there are very pro the area of animal therapy and can already appreciate the benefits of using dogs in therapy work.
So how have we managed to provide this level of help and support to the community? Quite simply through our great volunteers who continue to give of themselves to help other people week in and week out. The number of dogs in our programs has grown from 24 at the end of 2014 to 39 by the end of 2015, with 4 more dogs having passed the assessment and waiting to start in 2016. I would personally like to thank all our volunteers who have stepped up and are making a significant impact in our community. Recognizing that volunteers are the backbone to CTDS, the Board has worked diligently in 2015 to create a Volunteer Appreciation Policy which will be rolled out shortly. We also introduced the Volunteer Orientation package during the year to help new volunteers become aware of the Board members and expectations of becoming a volunteer with CTDS: if there is additional information you’d like to see as new volunteers, please let me know. In the spirit of running an open and transparent charity, please remember that the Board is here to help you in any way we can and board meetings, held on the third Monday of each month starting at 7:15pm in the Chestermere Public library, are open meetings for all volunteers to attend.
CTDS believes in getting involved in community events and in 2015 we had great fun taking part in the Spring Fair, Canada Day celebrations and Fall Fair (with 10 of our dogs being stars in the parade!) in Chestermere as well as taking part in Langdon Days for the first time.
A committee was struck to start planning a Canine Convention in June 2016.
Every Thursday at Chestermere Vet Clinic is now “Therapy Dog Thursday” where clients can learn about the role of therapy dogs in society and how to get involved.
On the financial front, CTDS introduced the Corporate Sponsorship package which attracted a number of donors. Donations were also received from both individuals and organizations as well as 60 individuals/ families donating bottles/cans to our on-going bottle drive. One grant was received from FCSS/United Way in late spring. The combination of all this enabled us to complete our rebranding and cover off our annual insurance premium as well as other operating expenses.
Possibly the most significant long term financial benefit to occur was when CTDS received “Registered Charity” status early in 2015 from the Canada Revenue Agency. This enables us to issue tax receipts for donations (cash and bottles/cans) given as well as opening doors for CTDS when applying for grants in the future.
I would like to highlight the contribution of two specific individuals who have helped CTDS significantly in 2015: Kris Hans and Gabby Rotaru. Kris continues to maintain our website and was instrumental in completing the rebranding of CTDS with his colleagues at Market Grade. Gabby, as in 2014, provided free medical exams for all our prospective therapy dogs which enables us to grow knowing that the dogs on our programs are healthy and fit to provide the therapeutic help we need. In addition, Gabby also became a volunteer for CTDS with her dog Moxie during 2015 which truly reflects the commitment of this lady. Thank you Kris and Gabby!
So what can you expect to see happening in 2016 with CTDS?
- Langdon School would like our Caring Tails program rolled out there.
- I anticipate more involvement with Alberta Health Services with Caring Tails.
- Listening Tails to be rolled out to Cranston School as well as the potential for LT in Mckenzie Lake School and Langdon School.
- Canine Convention hosted by CTDS on June 18 2016
- More involvement with the Chartwell group of seniors’ residences: we are currently at 2 of their 5 locations.
- Possible introduction of a 4th program: “Teaching Tails”? Therapy Dog badge for scouts and girl guides?
- Introduction of therapy dog trading cards.
The community is in better shape because of the work of our dedicated group of volunteers and for that I can’t thank you enough. 2015 was a very positive year for everyone involved in CTDS and I anticipate 2016 being equally as positive. The best is yet to come in 2016!
“Helping people one dog at a time”