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Service to the community

Mentor Programs

Animal Assisted Therapy

Responsible Dog Ownership Education


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S.M.A.R.T. Dogs Inc.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Our regularly scheduled animal-assisted therapy visits relieve loneliness and boredom for hundreds of in-patients at acute care hospitals, psychiatric institutions, rehabilitation facilities and convalescent homes. The devotion of our volunteers provides welcome contact with the elderly, the young, and the mentally and physically challenged. Please read further to understand the facilities we visit and the volunteer guidelines and responsibilities. If, after readdin this, you believe you and your dog would like to participate in this program, we invite you to download the attached letters and application forms, and to schedule an observational visit.

. S.M.A.R.T. Dogs application
Visit Calendar
Click on the calendar to view our current visit schedule

Current visit sites include:
    *  Brookdale Diablo Road - Assisted Living, Danville
    *  Herrick Hospital - Adolescent/Gero Psych, Oakland
    *  John George Psychiatric Pavilion - Adult Acute Psychiatric, San Leandro
    *  Mauzy School   - Children with mulltiple Disabilities (ages 3-22), Alamo
    *  Piedmont Gardens - Independent Living, Assisted Living and SNF, Oakland
    *  Willow Rock - Adolescent Psychiatric, San Leandro

Facility Definitions

Independent Living Retirement Communities:  Designed for those who are totally independent (or nearly so) assisted Living sections (see below).

Assisted Living:  Accommodates older adults who do not have extensive medical care needs but require assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating and medications.

Intermediate Care Facility:  For those who are not bed bound, and can move about the facility under their own initiative, even with a wheelchair.  They may be incontinent and require intermittent nursing services.

Skilled Nursing Facility:  For patients who need 24 hour nursing supervision, many of whom are confined to bed for some portion of the day or who are incontinent.  SNF's are sometimes referred to as "Convalescent Hospitals", although most SNF's offer a rehabilitation component, which means that some residents are there to recover from surgery and need extra therapy before returning to their own homes.

Alzheimer and Dementia Care:  These facilities can be either Day Care, where participants attend daily or a few days a week for a set number of hours, or residential where the patients actually live at the facility.  Participants are at different levels of dementia, some more severe than others.  The programs provide families and caregivers of those afflicted with these devastating diseases a safe place to take them when they need a break from managing daily care.

Children with Disabilities:  These children have developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, communication disorders, learning disabilities, autism and other behavioral issues that impact social relationships.

Chronic/Acute/Sub-Acute Psychiatric Treatment Centers:  Psychiatric Treatment Centers for adults with various degrees of psychiatric problems: chronic (long-term and persistent), acute (extreme) and sub-acute (less extreme) psychiatric disorders.

Volunteer Team Job Description

Major Objective: To share visiting animals in a way that promotes healing and improves the quality of life of those we visit.


1. To visit facilities in the company of a site supervisor.
2. To hold animals for people to touch.
3. To encourage people to talk and share their feelings and experiences.

Qualifications: Possess good, friendly communication skills, and the ability and desire to handle animals and to work with people who may have slowed response.

Orientation and Training Requirements: An orientation with the Volunteer Coordinator or the Site Supervisor at the facility prior to a scheduled visit. On the job training. Ongoing evaluation of the dog/handler teams suitableness and abilities takes place at each visit.

Time and Place: Animal-assisted therapy visits are held at various facilities in the East Bay. Transportation is the responsibility of the volunteer. Visits are scheduled on weekdays, weekends, and some weekday evenings.

Commitment: A minimum of three visits each calendar quarter are required to retain your membership.

Supervision: All visits are supervised by a site supervisor.

Benefits: Wonderful smiles from patients, continuing education, personal satisfaction, and of course lots of tail wagging.


Volunteer Guidelines

If your dog is accepted into the program, call the site supervisor to schedule a visit. Any adult facility is acceptable for a first visit.

If your dog is accepted into the program:

  1. We require each volunteer team to do 3 visits over at least a two month period per calendar quarter. Only dogs fulfilling this requirement are permitted at sites with children. Teams that are unable to visit for three consecutive months are required to complete a new animal interview with our temperament tester.
  2. During the probationary period, dogs must complete a minimum of 5 visits in no less than two months at adult facilities. Additional testing at the conclusion of the probationary period will certify the dog for full participation in our program.
  3. The dog should be freshly bathed and free of any parasites for each visit.
  4. Regarding treats:

    • Only dogs approved during evaluation as gentle taking food can receive treats from patients

    • On visits, dogs are only allowed to eat food provided by the handler.

    • Do not feed treats to other handlers’ dogs without their expressed permission.

  5. Guardians are expected to have the dog under their control and on a 4-foot leash at all times on visits. When possible, the dog should be no farther than one foot away from the guardian and no closer than two feet to other visiting teams.
  6. It is the responsibility of each voluunteer to maintain their membership status by submitting their annual renewal, including their pet's veterinary evaluation, in a timely manner.
  7. Guardians must pay the costs for any veterinary visits.
  8. On a visit, the guardian of any misbehaving dog (barking, growling, snapping biting or jumping) MUST remove the animal from the facility immediately.
  9. Animals who display unacceptable behaviors at any facility or group function will be unable to continue in our program.


More about some of our Facilities (stay tuned: more about some of our new facilities to come)

Diablo Lodge, Danville
Just a short time go, seniors who needed help with their care had very few choices.  Today, thanks to operations like Diablo Lodge's Assisted Living Program, seniors can remain in private apartments, maintaining their dignity and independence, and still receive the care they need.  Diablo Lodge offers six different levels of care for its residents from light assistance or medications to special care. Their activity-recreation program offers a wide range of activities including cards, exercise, arts & crafts, current events class, scenic drives, and S.M.A.R.T. Dogs visits. Visits here give an opportunity for both the human and canine members of the teams to sit and visit with the residents in a warm "living room" environment. This is probably Carolyn's Dougie's favorite visit. He loves to "hang out" with the residents here, and he is usually joined by Connie's Molly and Gayle's Clarissa. Other frequent visitors are Dorothea's Jace, Gail's Chloe, and Cynthia's Baxter.
Dougie at Diablo Lodge
Dougie spending quality time with Tivy.

John George Psychiatric Pavilion, San Leandro

John George Psychiatric Pavilion treats adults with various degrees of psychiatric problems: chronic (long-term and persistent), acute (extreme) and sub-acute (less extreme) psychiatric disorders. The visit to John George provides the patients an opportunity to talk about the animals in their lives, ask questions about the visiting dogs' breeds and training, see demonstrations of dog obedience and tricks and interact with the dogs, one on one. Dorothea's Jace and Carolyn's Tess and Dougie all enjoy this visit very much.
Jace anxiously awaits his visit at John George
Piedmont Gardens, Oakland  
Piedmont Gardens provides Assisted Living through Skilled Nursing to its residents. Visits by S.M.A.R.T. Dogs offers the opportunity for the dogs and their human companions to make room visits to the residents' own rooms. The residents welcome the dogs and have an opportunity to pet them and reminisce about the dogs in their lives. Elizabeth's Nick is a regular at these visits, along with other Friendship Foundation visitors, and frequently Carolyn's Dougie, as well.
Nick relaxes in the arms of a resident
Mauzy School, Alamo  
The Mauzy County Preschool Program for severely handicapped children serves children from all the school districts in Central Contra Costa County.  The children at Mauzy have a wide range of disabilities including delayed speech and language, Cerebral Palsy, autism and pervasive developmental delay, attention deficit disorder and add-hyperactivity, mental retardation, Down syndrome, as well as a variety of medically complicated youngsters. 
Alex gives Molly a gentle pet
Also located on the Mauzy School site are California Children's Services' Therapy Unit (physical and occupational therapy), the San Ramon Valley Unified School District's Infant and Non-intensive Preschool programs, and the Merriewood Preschool. All the children really enjoy the visits with their canine friends and the visits offer opportunities for the dogs to interact with the children in the therapy unit, classrooms and out on the playground, and perhaps even learn some sign language with the children. This is probably Tess' favorite visit - all those faces to lick! She, or Dougie, is usually joined by Molly, who has found this is one place you are allowed to put your feet up on the table (the wheelchair tables) to greet the children.
Green Valley Elementary School, Danville  
At Green Valley Elementary School, S.M.A.R.T. Dogs visits the Special Day Class for children with disabilities (ages 6-11).  The children have an opportunity to interact with the dogs, both large and small, with smooth and wiry coats, long and short hair, and seem to enjoy every them and their tricks, often joining in the tricks. Here the children enjoy walking the dogs around the classroom, as well as petting them.
Erin gently seeks a kiss from Witter
Los Cerros Middle School, Danville  
At Los Cerros Middle School, S.M.A.R.T. Dogs visits the Special Day Class for children with disabilities (ages 11-114).  The children have an opportunity to interact with the dogs, and sometimes go for a walk with them. The students enjoy the interaction with the dogs, and some share information about their dogs. The dogs help them to continue to learn gentle touching and respect for other living things.
Josh is pleased with his visit with Tess


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