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Our Dogger-In-Chief Hi-Fives Meenal Of Animal Angels For Training ‘Therapy Dogs’

  • IWB Post
  •  March 12, 2017


I might have not expressed my love for our dogger-in-chief ever before, but she is the only dog who I have been so close to.

Poppy my love, you are happiness!

I don’t believe myself when I cuddle with you on the same bed, and share my lunch with you and do all those cute little things that have become very precious to me now. The way you look at me when you want something and how you lick away my worries while expecting just a biscuit in return.

Well, I can go on and on writing about my first dog love. But I have to tell you about this beautiful organization that is making our world a better place with the help of the therapy dogs.

Animal Angels Foundation, a non-profit organization that came to life in 2003, is the very first organization in our country that creates awareness about the lovely benefits of animal-human relationships and the wonderful healing animals can give to humans.

To sniff through the love that Animal Angels Foundation bear for dogs, I spoke to Meenal Kavishwar.

Meenal feels that being with animals is not her passion but something that comes very naturally to her. It’s a way of life for her. In her masters, she closely worked on human psychology and bonding people create with dogs. It was then she realized that this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Therapy dogs

IWB: How do you choose your dogs and what training do they undergo?

Meenal: All the dogs that we have in our foundation are family dogs. Each dog here undergoes a temperament test first and then intensive training for a year. Though there are times when some dogs are to be trained for a longer time too. During this period we make them meet different people, put them in different situations and that is how they get to experience different emotions. Since they are family dogs, many a time one or the other member of the family volunteers with us and learns so much more about their own dogs.

We have had dogs training with us for over seven years.

IWB: How differently will a dog person heal from a disease as compared to a non-dog person?

Meenal: You know, when we go to schools and hospitals the first thing that catches the eyes of the patients and the students are the dogs and not us. We strongly believe that there are people who need opportunities and not charity. Hence, we focus on enhancing the quality of their lives through interaction with the Therapy Animals. Since therapy dogs are not judgmental and easily approachable, they make the best of friends with everyone.

Therefore a person who has chosen to heal in a clinical setup will not enjoy the emotions and fun that he could otherwise with a therapy dog. When we connect with patients of depression and with behavioral issues, they connect faster with dogs. We have seen patients being more responsive due to the dogs. They actually forget that they are undergoing a therapy and become really happy taking the treatment.

Therapy dogs

IWB: What is your most emotional therapy story?

Meenal: Oh there are so many of them. I have closely worked with autistic children who had difficulty in speaking to an extent that their teachers thought that they could never speak. There at the school, I met a child and started treating him with a therapy dog. Would you believe that the first word that kid spoke from his mouth was the name of the dog?

IWB: Do all of these dogs have owners?

Meenal: Yes. All the dogs that we have are family dogs. They are well fed and healthy dogs. Also, I’d like to mention that we are not only particular about the dog but the family they belong to. Their upbringing, kind of interaction they have had at home and their family members, matter to us a lot.

Therapy dogs

IWB: How do the off-days for these dogs look like?

Meenal: Haha! Off-days are usually chilling at home for them. Otherwise, we sometimes go out with our partner organization ‘Pet sitters’ to Pune. We have developed a place there called sunshine farms where we have a pool, trek, in-house dogs and a lot of other fun things to do.

Sounds fun, ain’t it?

For those who can’t travel to Pune, we organize regular meetups for them here, in Mumbai.

IWB: Are all the dogs neutered?

Well, ideally they have to be, but since we can’t force the owners, so we leave the choice to them. What only matters to us are the temperament of the dog and nothing else.

Therapy dogs

IWB: What are three most funny names of your therapy dogs?

Meenal: Since kids find it difficult to call the dogs with bigger names, so we call them Pepe, Moshe, Milo, Sunshine, etc.

IWB: Most of your pictures show that you have a great bunch of Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Saint Bernards. Do you keep other breeds too?

Oh yes! We try to encompass other breeds too. For our farm projects, we do have Rottweilers, Cocker Spaniels, and Beagles. We feel it’s how you raise the dogs that define their behavioral characteristics.

IWB: Share with us the story of your most naughty dog?

Meenal: Here her story goes: “So I am ‘Kutti.’ Meenal and I are friends since she teaches in the same school where I have lived for over ten years. My owner is the school principal, but Meenal is my caretaker. One day, after Meenal had trained me for a while, the school authorities came for an inspection. I couldn’t believe how nervous Meenal was. She had made me take a bath, combed my hair, and made me wear a nice jacket, and what not, I tell you!”

Therapy dogs

Call me naughty if you wish, but I didn’t want to behave nicely that day. So just when the team was about to come and check on me, I ran to the garden and oh boy, it was all wet! Anyway, I played in the mud, got all murky and dirty. But it was fun!

Do you think it was fun? *puppy face*”

IWB: Do you only have dogs as therapy animals because I did see a few cats too? <Curious much>

Meenal: Yes, you are right. We do have cats too. Cats make amazing therapy animals. They work best for senior citizens, people suffering from behavioral problems and relationship issues.

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