Get Involved-Spotlight: Divine Canines
To provide children and adults in need with the emotional and physical benefits of therapeutic interaction with specially trained dogs.
We believe that there exists a profound, inherent, and healing bond between humans and their dogs. We also believe that dog enthusiasts comprise a responsible, dedicated and highly driven segment of volunteers.
Divine Canines is a non-profit organization that has provided free, animal-assisted therapy to Central Texans since 2004. Founded with the help of nationally renowned animal behaviorist and trainer Lee Mannix, Divine Canines embodies a high standard of training that accompanies the unconditional love, affection, and motivation of our gentle canines. Originally started with four teams that served patients living with mental illness at the Austin State Hospital, Divine Canines has now grown to over 70 volunteer teams providing services in diverse settings to persons of all ages. Each year, we travel over 10,000 miles and bring 8,000 smiles to communities near you.
Mental Health Advocacy: Divine Canines has its roots in serving persons living with mental illness or pervasive physical disabilities. We passionately support our partners at the Austin State Hospital and Austin State Supported Living Center and provide services to these sites at least once per week.
Barking Book Buddies: Our reading assistance program serves elementary students experiencing reading challenges ranging from reading anxiety to dyslexia. Volunteer teams work one on one with an assigned student each week for an entire school year. Shy and reticent readers quickly develop a trusting, emotional bond with their canine buddy. Anxiety and dread over reading transforms into a love of reading and a healthy dose of self-confidence.
Wounded Warriors: We partner with Ft. Hood’s Occupational Therapy Department to serve combat veterans who are experiencing symptoms of PTSD. The healing power of our dogs is evident. To their therapist’s amazement, soldiers who may go weeks without smiling or speaking relax and converse without trepidation in the presence of a friendly canine.
Children with Special Needs: Unconditional love reigns supreme when our canines visit children with special needs, children who have experienced abuse or neglect, and children who have witnessed domestic violence. Divine Canines currently serves children with special needs at four sites.
Rehabilitation and Convalescence: Divine Canines currently serves nine assisted living facilities for the elderly and four rehabilitation hospitals. Our specially trained dogs provide gentle exercise, motivation, and friendship to persons experiencing limited mobility, Alzheimer’s patients, and patients receiving chemotherapy.
Training and Team Requirements
- American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) prerequisite
- 5-week specialized animal-assisted activities training through The Training Center for Canine Behavior
- Evaluation Assessment
- Yearly re-certification
- All breeds and sizes are welcome.
- Volunteers choose the sites they visit according to their personal interests and trainer feedback.
- Volunteer teams are strongly encouraged to visit partner sites at least two times per month or provide at least 2 hours of volunteer services per month.
- For more information, visit www.divinecanines.org.
Current Volunteer Opportunities
- Two more training classes will be scheduled in the Fall and Winter 2011. There are 8 slots per class.
- All volunteers are welcome. We are especially seeking volunteers available to participate in our Barking Book Buddies program at participating schools for the 2011-2012 school year.
- No dog? No problem. We have a variety of volunteer opportunities for you!
- For more information on these and other volunteer opportunities, visit www.divinecanines.org.
What Can Your Donation Do?
- Develop a friendship with a person living with mental illness
- Help a child improve their reading skills and self esteem
- Support a soldier living with PTSD
- Bring unconditional love to a child who has suffered abuse and neglect
- Warm the hearts of assisted living residents
- Give children with autism a chance to make an emotional connection
- Brighten the day of cancer patients in the hospital
- Improve the mobility of a person undergoing physical rehabilitation
- Encourage families to read together
Quotes from Volunteers and Sites Served
“My favorite visit to the Summit Retirement home was when the phone rang as we were visiting a client. Her son had just become a grandfather the week before and wanted to share some news. ‘I will have to call you back… the dogs are visiting!’–How cool was that! It was in that moment I knew how very important our visits are and where we rank in the scheme of things!”
“As soon as I arrived to the visitation site with my dog a soldier in his late twenties approached me and our session began. The man was friendly, but acting a bit out of place and nervous. He was speaking a little flatly with the brim of his hat pulled down low to cover his eyes. Our conversation started over something mundane…dogs. He seemed to instantly gravitate toward my dog and started talking about his dog back home while affectionately petting mine. Once the ball got rolling our connection flourished. He told me many of the intimate details of his tours of duty and the things he had lost along the way. I felt so honored to be able to share in his personal stories, and my dog seemed to be putting him more and more at ease as we spoke. By the end of our session we were swapping stories and laughing together. Just one of many reminders of how essentially humanizing these visits are”
“On one of our visits to work with children with autism, the school had a fire drill right before our visit was to start. Our divine canines teams exited the building along with all the kids. When we were cleared to re-enter the building, I noticed one of the teachers motioning to me. I walked over with my canine. She was having problems getting one of her students to go back in. She asked if the student could walk my dog, Phoenix, back in and I said, “of course.” Upon seeing Phoenix, the student immediately regained his composure, grabbed on to the leash and calmly walked with her back into the building. This student has come a long way since we first started visiting this school last year and I have enjoyed watching the progress.”
Get Involved: Divine Canine audio and video produced KUT producer Mike Lee
A Fantastic Vignette about the impact our Divine Canines have made in Austin
Jim Swift’s Out on the Porch segment featuring Divine Canines
David Swenson is recognized today as one of the world’s foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga Yoga. Turns out that not only does he live in Austin, but he’s also a KUT listener and after hearing our August Get Involved on Divinie Canines he’s now a Divine Canines volunteer. Here’s David in downward dog at Fort Hood with his wife Shelley Washington and Bella who lives with Divine Canines President Heidi Armstrong. Image via Heidi Armstrong.