2013-07-12 / Neighbors

When therapy dog visits, ‘eyes light up’

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Pat Touri rewards her 3-year-old golden retriever Grace with a treat in the backyard of her Old Orchard Beach home. Grace, a certified therapy dog, will be apSee pearing at the Scarborough Public Library later this month. (Michael Kelley photo) Pat Touri rewards her 3-year-old golden retriever Grace with a treat in the backyard of her Old Orchard Beach home. Grace, a certified therapy dog, will be apSee pearing at the Scarborough Public Library later this month. (Michael Kelley photo) OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Time after time Old Orchard Beach resident Pat Touri has seen the power her 3-year-old golden retriever, Grace, has in making patients at the Morrison Center smile, laugh and forget about their troubles.

Soon Touri and Grace, a certified therapy dog, will bring that exuberance to children at the Scarborough Public Library.

Grace will be appearing at Family Story Time at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, July 18.

Other visitors to the series, for children ages 3 to 7, will include Scarborough Police Chief Robert Moulton, who will bring a police cruiser to the library Thursday, July 25, and Scarborough Fire Chief B. Michael Thurlow, who will bring a fire truck Thursday, Aug. 1. Scarborough Department of Public Works Director Mike Shaw will share a story and bring a large dump truck for the children to see Thursday, Aug. 8.

“I am in the library all the time,” said Touri, who provides childcare for two Scarborough children. “All the librarians know me. We got to talking one day that I had a therapy dog and a light went off in their heads.”

Grace has never been to the library with Touri, but if all goes well she would like to bring her dog by the library to visit children once a month.

“They have never had a dog in there, I don’t think, so we will see how it goes and we will see what the best use for her is there,” Touri said.

If her other ventures as a therapy dog are any indication, the experience will go well.

Touri said she and Grace have been visiting the Morrison Center, a Scarborough-based center that provides support services for adults and children with disabilities, every Tuesday morning for the past year.

“When we walk into the Morrison Center, it is dramatic. A lot of people there can’t speak, but you can see their eyes light up when Grace enters the room,” Touri said.

Grace has visited the Brentwood Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Yarmouth and has been to the University of New England campuses in Portland and Biddeford to visit students and help relieve stress before exams and finals.

“The kids love it because they miss their animals. They all say it helps with their stress,” Touri said.

Touri said she has always dreamed of having a therapy dog.

“I’ve had dogs all my life — all sorts of dogs – and I always wanted to do this,” Touri said. “I always thought it was a good idea to put people and dogs together for different therapies.”

Getting to this point has been a yearslong journey. Touri said she started basic obedience training when Grace was 5 months old. Within the first year, Grace had passed the American Kennel Club Good Citizen program and was on her way to becoming a therapy dog. In July 2012, Pet Partners, a national organization that trains both the pet and the owner with what it takes to be an official therapy pet, certified Grace as therapy dog.

“(Golden retrievers) are a great breed for this because they are very gentle,” Touri said.

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