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A dif-fur-ent kind of therapy

Andrew Philips

By Andrew Philips, Special to Postmedia Network

ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES
James gets some loving from Georgian College second-year veterinarian technician students Kimberly Spicer, Carly Thomas, Kaitlin Jones and Morgan Jensma as owner Howard Bloom looks on.

ANDREW PHILIPS/SPECIAL TO THE PACKET & TIMES James gets some loving from Georgian College second-year veterinarian technician students Kimberly Spicer, Carly Thomas, Kaitlin Jones and Morgan Jensma as owner Howard Bloom looks on.

For James, strapping on the lime-coloured cape brings a brisk wag of the tail.

The very-friendly one-and-a-half-year-old Lab/husky mix has become a regular at Georgian College's Orillia campus as part of a collaborative research agreement between the school, its Centre for Applied Research and Innovation and Sweet Charity Medical Assistance Dogs, a not-for-profit that trains therapy dogs to help newly-diagnosed diabetic children deal with the challenges of coping with the disease.

"He was a rescue dog out of Sudbury who came to our vet-tech clinic," said Howard Bloom, a researcher at the college, who also happens to be James' best friend.

"He's here to be loved since, unlike a service dog, therapy dogs are meant to be pet. He's an amazing dog."

Last fall, Sweet Charity Sweet Charity utilized a portion of the Trillium grant to fund the innovative project with a financial contribution to Georgian and the college provided an in-kind contribution toward the innovative. The purpose of the funding is to collaborate with Bloom and child and youth care students to "advance evidence-informed outcomes and experiences of its diabetes support and canine ambassador program."

As part of the initiative, James, who was recently trained by Sweet Charity as a canine ambassador dog, attends classes once a week with Bloom.

Bloom said the objective of James' attendance is to reduce anxiety and stress in college students who are learning life-space counselling skills, ethics and professionalism as part of the school's child and youth care program.

"James' presence is really supportive for students," said Bloom, who holds his charge on a green leash as student admirers stop in the school hallway to give James a little cuddle.

"He really makes the students feel more relaxed and comfortable."

The collaboration also serves as student field placement experience through Georgian's Centre for Social Entrepreneurship. As part of their placement, a group of students will provide research assistance to Bloom while advancing their entrepreneurial skills to explore potential social enterprises for Sweet Charity.

andrewphilips@live.ca



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