Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pet Therapy to Be Part of State of the Heart Camp BEARable

This summer when youngsters attend State of the Heart Hospice’s annual Camp BEARable, they will find a new friendly face to interact with. The camp, which is for children grieving the loss of a loved one, mixes fun and games with serious dialogue, enabling them to speak openly about their grief and loss. The camp is free and will be held July 22-24 at the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein.

Joining the children this year for the first time will be Benson, a 140 pound black Newfoundland dog owned by Jackie Jutte of Celina. Both Jutte and Benson are certified in pet therapy by the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association.

“I am looking forward to seeing how he will interact with the young people there,” said Jutte. Benson has visited hospitals and nursing homes and worked with elderly people and children before. He is a “happy” dog, Jutte said, who knows when to turn on the charm. The Newfoundland breed is known for their giant size, tremendous strength, calm dispositions and loyalty.

Marlene Black, State of the Heart Bereavement Specialist and Camp Director, said Benson “will bring something new to camp and will offer another means for the children to be relaxed and comfortable, helping them to feel they are in a “safe” environment where they can talk openly and address their issues about grief and loss.”

Findings indicate pets can trigger the body’s normal relaxation responses in times of anxiety and stress and release endorphins that increase pleasure. About 50 children, ages six to 15, will be at the weekend camp. They will have the opportunity to pet him and be around him. Each child is paired with a specially trained adult “buddy.”

“Even though he is huge, he has a soft look which draws people to him,” explained Jutte. And, he can entertain, she added. “He can play getting shot and falling to the floor, give you a high five, shake hands, talk on command, and kiss on command.” All of this is done by the use of hand signals.

Benson, Jutte believes, can bring another element of “happiness” to Camp BEARable. “When a child loses someone, they lose some of their ability to be happy,” she said. “When children see him and sense his aura, they want to be around him. He brings smiles to people’s faces.”

This year marks the 13th year that State of the Heart has conducted the camp. The local non-profit agency cares for families and patients in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. With offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland, State of the Heart is observing 30 years of service to area communities.

Registration is necessary for camp. There need be no association with hospice care in order to attend the camp. The application for Camp BEARable is available at the agency’s website: Call Marlene Black at 1-800-417 7535 for more information.

Editor’s Note: Top: Pictured is Benson, with Olivia, Jackie Jutte’s daughter, at his graduation from Pet Therapy School. Bottom: Jackie Jutte

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