Therapy dog assists in ministry
By Vickie Yoder
In this essay, Vickie Yoder, a recently retired chaplain, describes the way that Shadow, a therapy dog, has helped in her ministry.
Shadow became a certified therapy dog in 2013. He takes his visitation responsibilities quite seriously. When he puts on his vest, he is ready to bring joy and smiles to those he comes in contact with.
Shadow is also part of the Madison County Response Team. He responds to crises in many different environments, such as homes, schools, libraries, funerals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals. He has been instrumental in helping grieving children work through the death of their friends, one by suicide and the other due to an auto accident. He assists doctors and staff in the hospital, reminding them there is a rainbow following a storm.
As a chaplain, I often find that patients are phobic and don’t want to talk with a religious person; however, if I have Shadow with me, it is rare that he is not invited into the room. Shadow brings acceptance and respect to the individual being visited. He is often a bridge for people, allowing them to open up about their own stories and journeys, often involving a pet.
Animals can play a role in the lives of humans. The human-animal relationship helps provide physical, psychological, and physiological benefits to the wellness of humans. The bond that people have with their animals is unique and strengthened by the relationship and time that they share together, benefiting the well-being of both participants.
I have witnessed Shadow calming an autistic child, defusing an outburst. I have seen him bring a class of young men to talk to one another, breaking the grieving silence. He has brought tears to our aging population because he reminds them of days gone by.
Shadow is an 85-lb. bundle of joy that wants to show others that he can make a difference in offering unconditional love.
Shadow’s handler is Vickie Yoder, interim associate pastor at Sharon Mennonite Church in Plain City. Vickie is a recently retired chaplain, having served in Columbus, Ohio. You may contact Vickie and Shadow at firstname.lastname@example.org.