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Carly Goteiner: Director of Community Engagement at The Good Dog Foundation

The Good Dog Foundation trains dogs and volunteers to visit hospitals, schools, and other facilities where people are in need of the healing power of dogs. After completing training, Good Dog’s therapy dogs help bring joy to kids and adults experiencing stress, illness, or trauma. To learn more about their work, apply to be a volunteer, or donate to the impactful cause, click here!

What kinds of places do your trained dogs visit?

Good Dog was started in 1998 by Rachel McPherson, who was one of the individuals who helped change the law in New York to allow dogs to go into hospitals. She wanted to create an organization for people to train their dogs to visit patients, students, and others in need of some joy. Now we work in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, and libraries. Pre-Covid, we had 455 teams. The pandemic was a big setback for us because we couldn’t do in-person visits at our locations for over a year. We’re looking for more dogs and volunteers to join us, because that means that we are able to help more and more people.

What are some of the benefits of being around therapy dogs?

Some people in nursing homes and assisted living barely get visitors. When our teams come, they can socialize with both dogs and humans. It’s a wonderful experience for them. It lowers anxiety, decreases loneliness, and increases mental stimulation. For people with memory issues, our visits can trigger them remembering previous dogs. Being around dogs lowers blood pressure and decreases stress. Dogs aren’t judgemental and come to you with unconditional love. In schools, dogs encourage reluctant readers by sitting with them and help cheer up kids who are having a bad day. In occupational therapy settings, people can throw a ball to the dog or brush them as part of their therapy.

How does the doggie approval process work?

Applicants can fill out a pre-screen form online where we learn about you and your dog. The local trainer will approve those. There’s then an evaluation to test your dog’s social skills, the owner’s relationship with a dog, the dog’s behavior with strangers, and their ability to remain calm in chaotic environments. If your dog is approved, we have a four-week training program that is one session per week. Then you and your dog are free to visit any of our sites. Some people go once a month and some go three times a week. Certain dogs can be better for certain situations. For example, tiny dogs can get overwhelmed around small children because they can be rougher. It’s up to you to decide where you want to volunteer.

What do you enjoy most about working at The Good Dog Foundation?

My job is a bit of everything since we have such a small staff. I do administration, marketing, programs, social media— I dabble in it all. Everyday I start work knowing that I’m helping people. It’s a great mission. It’s important that I have purpose and know that what I’m doing is giving back to the world. Next year is Good Dog’s 25th anniversary, and I’ve seen us grow and change so much since I started. We are hoping to do an in person gala to celebrate. It’s been tough financially for us since Covid, so our board is matching donations up to $65K.


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