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August 28, 2010

Dog Therapy, We Deliver (Thanks to Fidos for Freedom)

HSUS membership manager Joelyne King and her dog Freasky enjoy their "Off Duty" jobs as volunteers providing TLC to people in need

Part of an online series profiling staff and friends who volunteer "Off Duty"

  • A big smile and friendly tail wag are all in a day's work for Joelyne King and her best dog Freasky.

  • Fidos for Freedom, Inc. is active in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

  • Freasky loves to give—and get—attention. HSUS

  • Freasky passed his dog therapy certification test with flying colors!

Read more Off Duty stories»

When Joelyne King isn’t fielding inquiries as membership manager for The HSUS, she and her therapy dog Freasky visit nursing homes in Maryland to spread a little love and sunshine among elderly patients. We asked her recently to tell us about her "Off Duty" job.

The HSUS: How did this all come about?

Joelyne King: In my senior year of high school, I was required to complete 40 hours of community service to graduate. I chose a local nursing home in Silver Spring, Md.. My responsibilities included helping the elderly groom themselves, assisting the nurses serving food during meal times, and visiting the patients in their rooms. 

Long story short, eight years later I continue to visit the nursing home every week. Lately, my four legged friend comes along too.

HSUS: Your pet rat terrier. How did he become a therapy dog?

JK: Each day on my way to work at The HSUS, I noticed a large building with a sign that read, “Fidos For Freedom, Inc”.  I looked it up online and found an amazing non-profit organization that I wanted to be a part of.

I immediately knew Freasky would make a great therapy dog. I adopted him in 2004, from the Montgomery County Humane Society in Rockville, Md.. He was  taken to the shelter by his owner because he had too much energy!

I saw past all of his supposed flaws and opened my heart to a silly, quirky and wonderful dog. Besides, who doesn’t have flaws?! Six years later, he is still full of energy and I love it. He is my best friend.

HSUS: What exactly is Fidos For Freedom?

JK: It’s located in Laurel, Md. and run by a dedicated group of volunteers who strive to increase the quality of life for people living in the Washington-Baltimore region through the use of service dogs, hearing dogs and therapy dogs. "Fidos" provides trained service assistance dogs to people with mobility and hearing impairments, and runs a therapy dog program to provide emotional and physical benefits to patients of all ages in healthcare facilities like nursing homes, hospitals, and hospices.

HSUS: How did your pet handle the temperament and obedience tests?

JK: After several training requirements, Freasky passed his certification test with flying colors! Now we make a difference in people’s lives together. 

Don’t get me wrong; although it’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, too. We attend weekly classes every Wednesday night at the FFF training facility and meet specific requirements throughout the year in order for us to remain an active certified therapy team. 

HSUS: What happens during a typical nursing home visit?

JK: Patients and their families—and staff members, often—spend time with our dogs. Freasky shows off new tricks he’s learned at Fidos for Freedom. He enjoys giving kisses to patients (after getting their permission), and sitting on their laps as they pet him.

Freasky has been an integral part of my life and I could not imagine being without him. He has shown me how strong the bond between an animal and human can be. This bond shows in the smiling faces of patients whenever Fidos For Freedom, Inc. therapy dogs and volunteers come to visit.

Interested in a therapy dog training program? Find out more at www.fidosforfreedom.org»

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