Sometimes the best ambassadors slobber. When English bulldogs Darla and Mollie put on their bright red vests that identify them as therapy dogs for a recent visit to a group of second graders, there were lessons among the cuddles.
Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Katie Ritter, who trained Darla and Mollie, talked about the difference between therapy dogs and service dogs.
“It’s OK to pet therapy dogs,” Katie told the assembled students. “But service dogs are working hard for their human handler and need to focus. They should not be petted or distracted when they’re working.”
Her partner, Clint Hoback, talked about living with a disability and playing wheelchair rugby. He brought his sports chair along for the kids to check out. But the stars of the program were Mollie and Darla as they showed off some of their learned behaviors including “high-five,” “wave goodbye” and “touch,” where they touch with their noses the place they are prompted.
360 To Go is always on the move, visiting schools, community-based youth organizations, health fairs and community events spreading awareness of the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center and more importantly, disability awareness and culture.
Robert Reed, Membership and Outreach Specialist, is often the face you’ll see. Sometimes he’s in his sports chair. Sometimes he partners with other athletes to bring adaptive sports and the Independent Living message to the mainstream.
Sometimes 360 To Go stays home. Rob also invites groups in to the center for a tour, conversation and a chance to check out adaptive sports first hand.
“When kids meet adults who happen to live with disability but they’re still getting it done; working, playing, hanging out… that’s powerful,” Rob said. “It teaches youth that we’re really all the same.”
To request a visit from 360 To Go, contact Robert Reed at email@example.com.
Follow the “adorabull” Darla and Mollie on Instagram: @adventures_of_darla_and_mollie.
Jennifer Longdon is known to drink too much coffee, ask too many questions and then write about it. She has served on numerous Boards and Commissions focused on disability advocacy including the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues, the Statewide Independent Living Council and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Public Impact Panel. Jen has a T-4 spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair full time.