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Tails of Joy members volunteer throughout Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties and neighboring towns in Connecticut.

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Hartford Courant, May 23, 2014

By SUZANNE CARLSON, scarlson@courant.com

WEST HARTFORD — Students took a detour between classes at Conard High School Thursday for some furry, tail-wagging stress relief.

"We'd always been taught how to prioritize our time, and study skills, but we'd never been taught stress relief," said senior Morgan Chase.

Chase was one of three students in a global problem-solving class who decided to tackle stress as their final project, which culminated in a collaboration with the "Tails of Joy" therapy dog group of Manchester.

On Thursday, five therapy dogs and their handlers visited the school, shielded from a sudden downpour by tents because the dogs were not allowed inside.

Students who had recently taken their advanced placement tests and had parental permission dashed outside in the rain and spent a few minutes petting the dogs before returning to class.

Social studies teacher Rich Mabey said his class focused in its first semester on how and why global issues develop, and the second semester on making a hands-on attempt at solving issues locally.

Groups of students did projects on everything from bullying and water pollution to urban education reform and female circumcision.

The stress group, with Chase, Eamonn D'Arcy, and Zach Hilborn, looked at how stress affects health. Mabey said the students focused on finding positive ways for teens to soothe themselves, rather than turning to drugs and alcohol or losing themselves in video games.

"They did a lot of research on student stress," Mabey said. "It's a pretty amazing connection they were able to make and I'm very proud of these guys."

In terms of the therapy dog program, "colleges are already doing that and it's a great idea," D'Arcy said. "Conard is already a great school and we're looking for ways to make it better."

Hilborn said the post-test therapy dog session offers students an opportunity to decompress after a year of studying for high-pressure AP tests.

"We went with this because everyone seems to like dogs," Hilborn said. He added that studies have shown there, "is a chemical release in the brain when you pet a dog."

Daphne Wilcox, vice president of Tails of Joy, said the students "approached me and used me as a sounding board."

The biggest hurdle was working with the town's risk manager and getting insurance for the program, but "the kids wanted it and they jumped through the hoops of planning it and organizing it, and I think that is really unique," Wilcox said.

Handler Caroline Gaetano brought her yellow lab Finley, who is 1 1/2 years old and was registered as a therapy dog in April.

Gaetano has been a handler for about 10 years, and usually visits nursing homes and similar environments, but said schools are an excellent place for the dogs to help ease stress.

"There's great benefits," Gaetano said. "This is great work to be involved in."


Manchester Broadcast News

Produced by the students at Manchester High School

Click to open Manchester Broadcast News website, then advance to 27 seconds.

CCSU News, May 2013

Member Frank Bugaj and his Pet Partner Angus during finals at the Elihu Burritt Library at Central Connecticut State University.

Eastern Hosts Fresh Check Day Program

By Office of University Relations on April 30, 2012 11:13 AM

fresh check2.jpgOn April 19, Eastern was the first college campus in the nation to host Fresh Check Day -- a concept created by The Jordan Matthew Porco Memorial Foundation that is designed to bring the campus community together to "check-in" on the mental health and wellness of college students.

Eastern's Fresh Check Day began in the Student Center, where relaxation and stress relief were addressed through a vibrational sound massage exhibit, "Gong the Planet" and "Tails of Joy Therapy Dogs." In the evening in the Betty R. Tipton Room, Jordan Burnham from Active Minds spoke. Burnham, a nationally-recognized speaker, told the story of surviving a nine-story fall/suicide attempt. "Life After the Fall" is a moving presentation that addresses mental health issues, suicide and survival.

fresh check1.jpgThe signature events of Fresh Check Day took place on April 21, when Webb Lawn was transformed into an expo-like atmosphere to bring together 10 interactive exhibits, combined with free food and raffle giveaways. The band, Barefoot Truth, kicked off Eastern's popular Battle of the Bands.

Students attending Fresh Check Day earned Dean's Cup Points. The 10 expo booths offered students ways to relax, de-stress, reach out and recognize depression in their friends.

All events were organized by the Offices of Counseling and Psychological Services and Student Activities, student volunteers and representatives of The Jordan Matthew Porco Memorial Foundation. For more information, please visit www.freshcheckday.com.

Better Connecticut Tails of Joy Member Taffy Wilcox and team-mate, Kiza featured on WFSB's Better Connecticut with Scot Haney.

Pet Therapy
by Traci Tefft

The Granby Drummer, April 2010

KizaHospice care is one of the fastest growing segments of health care in the United States today. Utilizing a special team of health care professionals and trained volunteers who assist a patient and his or her family during the last stage of life, the team adds a special dimension to the care the patient may already be receiving from doctors. The hospice team typically consists of a nurse, social worker, spiritual counselor, occupational and physical therapists and trained volunteers. The focus is palliative care, which means making the patient as comfortable as possible, when curative treatment is no longer appropriate. The hospice team helps the patient work through the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of being near death, as well as helping the family who is also experiencing the loss of a loved one.

ShukuruA fairly new phenomenon in hospice care is the use of pets, specifically dogs, for therapy. A former Granby schoolteacher, Taffy Wilcox, has been using her cocker spaniels as hospice therapy dogs for the past seven years. Wilcox started doing pet therapy for Masonicare Partners in East Hartford. More recently, she has committed her time to the McLean Hospice program in Simsbury, and is very busy visiting patients at McLean and other local nursing homes that are receiving care under the McLean hospice program.

Wilcox owns three cocker spaniels; Tani, Kiza, and Shukuru. Their names come from the language of Tanzania, which is Swahili. The oldest dog, Tani, is 14 and when Wilcox first got him, her daughter was serving as a missionary in Tanzania and suggested her mom name the dog Mtani, which means “special friend.” Mzindikiza is 8 years old and her name means “one who walks by your side.” Shukuru, the pup of the family, has a name that means “give thanks.” Wilcox got him at Thanksgiving a year and a half ago.

When Wilcox first began offering pet therapy services, Tani was the dog who sat in patients’ laps and allowed himself to be stroked and loved. Now that Tani is fourteen, Wilcox is using Kiza for patient visits. If allowed, Kiza will lie down next to the patient in bed and provide love and comfort. It is quite a special moment.

Along with her background in education and pastoral counseling, Wilcox received training as a hospice volunteer from McLean. Tani and Kiza also received training and are officially registered as therapy dogs with the national organization, the Delta Society. They are also part of a local organization called Tails of Joy, from the Manchester area.

Wilcox has also used her dogs for a different kind of therapy called READ. READ is an acronym for reading education assistance dogs. Wilcox would bring her dogs to schools in Hartford and New Britain where children would read to them, leading to noticeable improvements in the children’s confidence and reading skills. The READ program is in decline because increasing demands on teachers result in lack of time to pursue special programs like READ. Also, there is concern over allergies that some children have to pet dander. Wilcox does bring her dogs to local libraries that have programs available for children to read to the dogs.

Taffy Wilcox is a very special volunteer who is using her resources to give back to the community she loves. For awhile she felt some frustration doing hospice care, because even though she knew she was helping patients during the last days of their lives, it was hard to face their deaths. Now she realizes that she and her dogs are providing a special gift for the patients as they leave this earth.

Granby DrummerReprinted with permission © 2010 The Granby Drummer

Valley NewsTails of Joy's Story Tails program featured in The Valley Press

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