Corporate Canine Therapy is the culmination of Rodney Kaufman’s lifelong dream to give back to his community. It started with the purchase of his now five-and-a-half-year-old dog, Harlow. “My idea with getting a Great Dane was always to have a therapy dog,” he says. “I went to Woofstock and St. John Ambulance had a stand about them so I asked the team about training Harlow.”
One of the pup’s first official jobs, after being certified, was for Kaufman’s mom when she was being treated for lung cancer. Because of Harlow’s training she was able to identify that his mom was having a massive heart attack – even when medical professionals didn’t know that’s what was happening – and then comforted her through the pain.
My idea with getting a Great Dane was always to have a therapy dog. I went to Woofstock and St. John Ambulance had a stand about them so I asked the team about training Harlow.
After several similar experiences, in particular seeing how Harlow helped kids and babies at a local children’s hospital, Kaufman started to think about how she and other therapy dog’s could ease the suffering of an often overlooked and distressed group of individuals: employees of big business.
“I noticed there was a niche and a need for this kind of therapy on a wider scale, especially for people who feel they never get a break.”
He notes the intense pressures that accompany the daily grindnot only impact a person’s mental and physical well-being, they can lead to a loss in productivity for corporations. The antidote, according to research Kaufman cites, is puppy playtime.
Studies show that people who receive visits from therapy dogs heal 30 per cent faster than those who don’t. Even brief hangouts with pets can release calming endorphins, lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress and increase happiness.
I noticed there was a niche and a need for this kind of therapy on a wider scale, especially for people who feel they never get a break
To make accessing his company’s services easy, Kaufman says he’s created a sort-of Uber for pet therapy. With a quick phone call, bosses and managers can set up a visit with one of his team’s 50 trained handlers. Animals who are part of the program have to meet a certain set of criteria, and naturally, they must be good with people.
Though it just launched, the company has already worked with a major hotel chain to inspire its team members during a planning session. “The event was so successful we’re now in the corporate retreat package and offer employees a chance to play with dogs in-between meetings.”
His team has also worked with a minister who wanted a therapy dog’s presence to ease tensions during counselling sessions. “These dogs can do just about anything,” Kaufman notes.
And while the initial inspiration for this company is set to retire in a couple years (thanks to Harlow’s life expectancy), Kaufman says he’ll continue to grow the business.
“We’re looking for another family pet to continue Harlow’s work,” he says adding, “I know what these dogs do makes a huge difference to a person’s life, so it’s a fun way to give back.”Sarah Kelsey (Walker) is a freelance writer who lives in downtown Toronto with her husband and daughter.