Tails of Joy Animal Asssisted Therapy, Connecticut

Providing Therapeutic Benefit to People
Through the Use of Animals

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

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Barking Up the Right Treat Fundraiser

Halloween 2004

Picnic 2004

Mary and Aspen, Therapy Cat

Picnic 2003

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Members In The News


Saturday, January 9, 2010 9:59 PM EST
The Bristol Press (bristolpress.com), Serving Bristol, CT

Kids read Tails of Joy

By SCOTT WHIPPLE Staff writer

BRISTOL — Seven-year-old Victoria Holcomb of Forestville seemed to have captured the rapt attention of Charlie, a Boston Terrier’s, attention Saturday as she read from “Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan.” Then James, a springer spaniel trotted into the reading room of Monross Library and Charlie’s attention wavered. For a moment he seemed torn between the story of Henry and the new canine. But Victoria’s dulcet vocal tones soon brought the dog back to his primary mission.

“Since we have a new dog in the house — Cup Cake, a pit bull — it’s good practice for her to read to a dog,” said Victoria’s mom, Jackie.

By the time, Victoria had finished reading, more than 15 kids with parents or guardians had crowded into the library reading area.

Mike Orazzi | Staff
Crystal Cleveland,7, reads to James as his owner Wendy Hirtle looks on at the Manross Library in Forestville during an event with the Tails of Joy Reading Education Assistance Dogs on Saturday.




Mike Grossi of Plainville, a representative of the local Tails of Joy, the organization hosting the Read-to-Dogs event, explained that Tails of Joy is part of the Delta Society. The society is a national therapy group dedicated to improving health and comfort through interaction with service and therapy animals. He is also a member of Reading Education Assistance Dogs, an all-volunteer organization, that bring dogs into schools, libraries and nursing homes as part of a relational therapy.

R.E.A.D. is a program to improve elementary schoolchildren’s reading skills with help from Pet Partner Therapy teams. The teams have completed a training program for dogs and their human companions.

According to Grossi, the breed of the dog doesn't matter. Saturday at the library he was assisted by James the spaniel; Charlie the terrier; and Ollie and Oola, Bernese mountain dogs. Grossi said the dogs he uses are laid back. They need to be patient for at least an hour and a half. If kids are afraid of dogs, this experience can help them overcome their fear.

The event is free, no cost to a parent or guardian. Librarians hear about it and place the item in newspapers.

“The secret to improving a child’s reading is a quiet spot, a listening dog and a good book,” Grossi said. Most dogs are companions of their volunteers. Grossi said schoolchildren who have read to a R.E.A.D. dog once a week for six months have shown a remarkable increase in their reading ability, ranging from two to six levels.

Charlie’s companion, who asked not to be identified, said she had been looking for a way to get involved in the community.

“I’m passionate about working with dogs,” she said. “I have a lot of free time and wanted to give back to the community.”

Five-year-old Dylan and his mother, Sharee Dionne visit the library every other day. A kindergarten student at Bristol’s Green Hills, Dylan said he enjoyed reading, also the “Make-and-Take” dog craft, a hand puppet made from toilet tissue rolls.

Grossi believes the program is successful because there’s no parent or teacher pointing a finger at the child. Sometimes the dog will lay his face in the kid’s lap or book. Then, too, dogs are not judgmental.

“You can usually tell the outcome from how the kid acts,” Grossi said. “Most of them leave with a smile on their face. It’s a three-way thing — the parent or guardian, the child, and of course, the dog — all three have to be happy.”

URL: http://www.bristolpress.com/articles/2010/01/09/news/doc4b4942306644c163060780.txt

© 2010 bristolpress.com, a Journal Register Property


Tails of Joy and WAGS featured in UCPEC's November newsletter


Dog Days at Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea
August 29 & 30, 2009

R.E.A.D. teams from Tails of Joy joined the fun at the Mystic Seaport museum celebrating working dogs.


Ahoy! Sea Dog Days are being planned for August 28 & 29, 2010


West Hartford Community Television, May 4, 2009

Moira O'Neill and Chin Chin interviewed on the For Health, For Life television program. View the Show



Paul Rothberg and Marshmallow, Beyond Limits Award Winner

Paul Rothberg & Marshmallow
Delta Society
Beyond Limits Awards 2008
Pet Partners Rookie Category

February 26, 2009

Paul Rothberg and Marshmallow from Newington, CT are one of just four Pet Partners (therapy animal) teams being honored as winners in the international Delta Society Beyond Limits Award sponsored by Purina. Honorees were chosen from over ten thousand registered Pet Partners teams representing 13 countries.

Delta Society Pet Partners are specially trained volunteers who with their pet (cat, dog, rabbit, llama, etc.) dedicate themselves to helping improve the lives of others in their communities. They visit hospitalized patients, seniors in assisted living centers, comfort people in hospice, help children learn to read and so much more.


Paul Rothberg and his Bichon Frise, Marshmallow, recently won the Rookie category which recognizes Pet Partners with one to two years of experience. According to their many fans, Paul and Marshmallow are a true Pet Partners team. The two started visiting nursing homes when Paul’s mother-in-law was forced to transition to an assisted living facility. After a few visits, Paul and Marshmallow joined a local Delta Society affiliate group called Tails of Joy so they could bring cheer and healing to other residents. They now visit two nursing homes and one hospital regularly.

Marshmallow“Each week seems to bring a new surprise that warms my heart!” Paul says. After only a few visits from Marshmallow, one woman who “didn’t like dogs” commented “I am ninety years old and can’t believe that I have missed this for all my life.” Aside from faithfully making their rounds, Paul continues to volunteer his time with the Tails of Joy group: coordinating new procedures, writing grants, and training new Pet Partners teams. One can only hope that their trainees will someday live up to the example set by this “dream team.”

"Paul and Marshmallow do a wonderful job bringing cheer, hope and healing to the patients, visitors and staff as they make their rounds,” says Kelley Boothby, Volunteer Services Manager at Hartford Hospital.

Please join us in congratulating and thanking Paul Rothberg and Marshmallow on receiving this special award and for all that they do to bring joy, compassion, motivation and inspiration to many people in your community!

About Delta Society
Delta Society, an international 501(c)(3) non profit, was founded in 1977 by a veterinarian and a psychologist who observed in their own practices that pets had a positive effect on their human patients. They started the organization to fund some of the first credible research which proved that animals have a profound impact on people’s health by lowering their blood pressure, reducing stress and anxiety levels, stimulating the release of endorphins which make people feel good, and so much more. Today, Delta Society helps people across the world become healthier and happier by experiencing the benefits of having companion, service and therapy animals in their everyday lives. To learn more visit our website at www.deltasociety.org.

About Nestlé Purina Pet Care
Nestlé Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestlé Purina Pet Care is part of the Swiss based Nestlé S.A., the world’s largest pet food company.

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nbc30.com, October 14, 2008
Dogs Wag Tails Of Joy

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. -- A special group of dogs is bringing joy to people at hospitals, schools, libraries and other organizations across the state.

“The dogs must pass several criteria and become certified, registered pet partners,” said Mike Grossi, a volunteer with Tails of Joy who makes about nine visits per month to organizations the group helps. Recently, the dogs made their monthly visit to the Alzheimer's Resource Center in Southington, which provides services including living assistance, adult day care and community programs for people with Alzheimer's disease.

Mary Strauss said dogs make the residents’ day. "The residents absolutely love them, so do the members of our adult day center and their families," she said. Grossi said he sees the difference the dogs make to the people they visit. "You can really see it. When you go up there and you see the smiles and the joy that they get … but just putting their hand on the dog’s head really makes them smile," Grossi said.

Strauss is grateful to volunteers like Grossi, who help make the program possible. "I told him recently, other guys when they retire they go on the golf course and Mike does this wonderful thing for people who really benefit from it and he brings joy to people's lives," she said. Grossi said the volunteer work also brings him joy.

"I feel real happy when I see these dogs have made everybody else happy," Grossi said.

nbc30.com, July 3, 2008
Your Stories: Woman, Dog Make Sick Children Feel Better

VERNON, Conn. -- A Vernon woman and her dog, known as Claire and Bear, have come to be a bright spot for children during difficult times. "The kids will see him and they just seem to forget what's going on around them other than the dog," said Claire Rolando. Bear participates in a program called Pedi Pal, which is run by the Connecticut Visiting Nurses Association Partners. He visits children who are terminally ill, in hospice or have life-limiting diseases.

Bear recently made his third visit to Anthony, an 11-year-old Hartford boy who has muscular dystrophy. "He looks more like a bear," Anthony said. Anthony's mom, Brenda, said she values the visits. "He got excited. He wanted to see the dog," Brenda said.

"He seems to instinctively know how a patient - whether they're frail, whether they're able to interact - how well they're doing," Rolando said.

Bear and Rolando have been making house calls since 2005. "For the parents and the children, it seems to be way more than we can even conceive of. I don't know how you don't do it. And anybody can do it. I'm just a person next door," Rolando said.

Anthony’s mother said he is always in the house, so the visits mean a lot. “He doesn't do much, so for people to come visit him it's a big deal for him," she said. "Just to see the smile on their face, to be told they won’t see anyone else, but they're willing to see the dog. It means a lot," Rolando said.

Bear came into Rolando’s live after she saw him on NBC 30 during a Sunday morning segment called Best Friends.

Spring 2008

Connecticut VNA Partners’ Hospice Recognizes Very Special Volunteers During National Volunteer Week

Volunteer Claire Rolando of Vernon Receives D.O.V.E. Award

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, and in keeping with an annual tradition, Connecticut VNA Partners’ Hospice honored community volunteers. Connecticut VNA Partners’ Hospice is a not-for-profit home health and hospice agency dedicated to expanding and strengthening home health care options to residents throughout Central Connecticut.

At a special award event held to recognize the extraordinary volunteers assigned through the program’s East Hartford office, each honoree was presented with a thank you certificate and a ribbon pin that signified the number of volunteer hours and years of service given to the hospice program.

Ms. Claire Rolando of Vernon received the highly regarded Dedicated to Outstanding Volunteer Excellence (D.O.V.E.) award. The D.O.V.E. award is given yearly to one volunteer who exhibits exceptional dedication to the program and exemplifies the true spirit of hospice care.

Deborah Richards, Director of Volunteers for Connecticut VNA’s Hospice and Connecticut VNA Partners’ Hospice, and Kara Mazzola, volunteer coordinator for the East Hartford hospice team, praised Ms. Rolando for her dedication and commitment to the hospice patients she visits. “Claire is a wonderfully warm person and an enthusiastic ambassador for our Pedi-Pal program for children with life-limiting illness. Since 2005, when Claire and her Delta-certified pet therapy dog, a Rottweiler named Bear, joined our program, they’ve brought many smiles and much joy to the numerous patients they’ve visited – both young and old. Her enthusiasm, flexibility and caring spirit make her an outstanding choice to receive this year’s D.O.V.E. award.”

Connecticut VNA Partners’ Hospice is an affiliate of Masonicare and Saint Francis Hospital. For information on Connecticut VNA’s hospice program or to learn how you can become a volunteer, call 1-888-482-8862.

November 2007

Cat FancyPet Partners Kathleen and Carlton in Cat Fancy

CarltonA Calming Presence
Therapy cats provide love and companionship to those who need it.
by Jennifer Williams, PhD.



Mtani Featured on Senator Lieberman's Website

Senator Lieberman and MtaniSenator Lieberman honored Mtani (pronounced TAHnee – silent M) as one of CT's Best for his work as a Reading Education Assistance Dog for the program Tails of Joy.

Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Faning got the idea to do this when her mother-in-law sent her a picture of a child reading to a dog that ran in a North Carolina paper. Mtani and his owner, retired kindergarten teacher Daphne Wilcox, have been meeting individually with four first-graders since November to help improve their reading skills.

For Some Students, Teacher's The Pet

Mtani in the Read ProgramTails of Joy member Daphne Wilcox and Mtani — which means "special friend" in Swahili were featured in a Hartford Courant article about the R.E.A.D. program.

"Mtani and his owner, retired kindergarten teacher Daphne Wilcox, have been meeting individually with four first-graders since November to help them improve their reading skills. The theory is that struggling readers might be embarrassed to read in front of a class or even a teacher but that the dog provides a comforting, nonjudgmental audience."

February 17, 2005, Hartford Courant
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer


Barbara Hubbard and Laddie featured in The Yale-New Haven Hospital Bulletin

Volunteer Barbara Hubbard was having a hard time getting through the Atrium during Volunteer Week. She accompanied her 5-year old collie, Laddie, and their presence encouraged patients and visitors to stop and talk and caress Laddie's glorious coat, making their progress slow.



Bella, Echo and PennyJeanne: "Dogs are the perfect ambassadors of acceptance and love because they are non-judgemental, willing to please, and good listeners."

TOJ member Jeanne Katkavich and her dogs Bella, Echo and Penny are part of a team that does weekly therapy work at the state-run Connecticut Children's Place, a home for troubled youths ages 10 to 18. Clinician Charles Rehmer, who oversees the pet therapy program, says "The dogs offer offer the kids unqualified attention and acceptance."

Manchester Journal Inquirer, December 27, 2003



Nashville listens intentlyTwo boys read "The 300 Pound Cat" to Nashville, a Reading Education Assistance Dog, at the Mary Edwards Library in Willington. The program is designed to help children develop their reading skills.

Nashville lives with TOJ members Susan Gagnon and Ted Urbanski.




Susan and NashvilleTOJ member Sue Gagnon and Nashville, who is blind, were featured in a Journal Enquirer article about the challenges of training a visually impaired dog. "It takes adjusting," Sue says. "You have to keep remembering he can't see." She has also taught him commands such as "Careful" to let him know he is about to bump into something.

Nashville and Sue are registered Delta Society Pet Partners and provide therapy visits at Windham Hospital and Woodlake at Tolland, a healthcare facility. They are also participating in the new Story Tails R.E.A.D. program after receiving additional training.

Journal Inquirer, August 20, 2003


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