Dogs undergo testing in Suffolk to become therapy dogs

Posted at 5:36 PM, Nov 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-11 17:36:29-05

Suffolk, Va. - Therapy dogs can be used for everything from comforting people who are sick to helping kids learn to read.

Tuesday night, some dogs will be undergoing testing in Suffolk to see if they have what it takes.

Lisa Rapacki, an evaluator with Therapy Dog International and co-owner of Churchland K9 in Portsmouth, will be doing the testing.

There's a list of activities the dogs have to go through. Some of the testing includes seeing how the dogs react to loud noises, falling objects and kids.

And it's not just the dogs that are evaluated.

"One of the things I look for is the bond between the owner and the dog, to see that they're communicating well, to see that 'oh my God - a squeaky ball!' and the owner can say 'it's okay, relax,' those kinds of things," said Rapacki.

The testing Tuesday night is being held at the Suffolk Humane Society's meeting.  They hold the testing several times throughout the year with the hope that some of the dogs and their owners will become part of their B.A.R.K.S. program, which stands for Books and Reading for Kids in Suffolk.

"[The kids] come in and they're really tense because they're going to read in front of an adult, and they're afraid of being judged and then what happens, it's amazing, they sit and they pet the dog or they twirl the dog's ears ... and then they're reading and they don't even know it," said Rapacki.

The testing will be taking place at 6:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Ruritan Club building at 1029 Nansemond Parkway in Suffolk.  People are welcome to watch the testing to get a better idea of what's involved.  You can also get more information about the testing on the Therapy Dog International website.