A Brief History of Ottawa Therapy Dogs
In 1999, Marilyn Benoit became a member of Therapy Dogs International (TDI), an organization established in 1976 in New Jersey, USA. Incorporating formal training and assessment, TDI set a high standard for therapy dog volunteers that met Marilyn’s vision for a Canadian chapter. In January 2000, Marilyn and other volunteers formed the first Canadian chapter of TDI, “Ottawa Therapy Dogs (OTD).”
That year, OTD started out with seven members serving several Ottawa facilities with the aim of assisting those who wished to become therapy dog volunteers and meeting the needs of facilities inviting this program into their community. OTD also provided ongoing in-service education for its members about all aspects of volunteer work related to the safe delivery of high quality therapy dog programs.
In 2002, one of OTD’s members became a certified TDI evaluator and the number of OTD teams began to increase. In 2003, in an effort to better represent the local needs of our community, members voted to establish a fully autonomous organization. Through the organization and commitment of its volunteers, OTD incorporated as a non-profit charity in Ontario and obtained its designation as a Registered Charity from Revenue Canada. Ottawa Therapy Dogs Inc. was officially born.
Today, Ottawa Therapy Dogs has over 100 therapy dog volunteers in healthcare facilities ranging from CHEO and Roger’s House to palliative care units and nursing homes across the National Capital Region.
Click here to learn more about Ottawa Therapy Dogs.
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program was originally developed by Intermountain Therapy Animals in 1999 and introduced to schools and libraries in Ottawa and the National Capital Region by Chantel Hutter under the umbrella of Ottawa Therapy Dogs in 2004. Since then, our R.E.A.D. program has grown to nearly twenty volunteer dog/handler teams working one-on-one with students in schools and libraries across the region.