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      Therapy dog sessions for the soul

      Some could call canine therapy a hidden treasure.

      The Amarillo Obedience Training Club has been teaching dogs house manners, agility, therapy and obedience since 1978. AOTC collaborates with other organizations around the Panhandle area to unite with animal lovers.

      Member Arliss Johnson said, "here at Therapy Dogs Incorporated, our goal is to bring smiles to patients and care givers. A lot of the times we go to the hospitals".

      "Therapy Dogs" must be tested and qualified by a representative of Therapy Dogs Inc. Many members believe that dogs assist hospital patients in more ways than companionship. Once the dog has passed several steps of training they then travel to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and hospice organizations.

      "The therapy dogs have helped in so many ways. Doctors know that if they go in and take a patient's blood pressure before we visit and then take it after we visit, that patients blood pressures are lower," said Johnson.

      The AOTC is a club composed of dog lovers and trainers from all over the area. Classes are held year round. Dogs in the club are between purebred and mix-bred and have received several medals and awards for their obedience and training.

      Competitions are sanctioned by the American Kennel Club of America. Vice President Caroline Johnson offers some advice to future therapy dogs, "you can start when they are puppies, right fresh out of the litter. Don't even wait a minute, dive right in, start training them. They love to learn, they love to work and anything you can do to reward that behavior is wonderful".

      Unfortunately, not all of the dogs started off with loving families. Member Laura Weese's dog, Cameron, suffered from nerve damage and a broken pelvis before being rescued.

      "We rescued Cameron last year just before my husband died. He had been either thrown out, jumped out; we don't know his story."

      After several weeks of recovery Laura decided to join the AOTC and share Cameron's story and compassion.

      "We felt like he had qualities to share his accident with someone else that might have had an accident or not feeling well. He is very gentle, very quiet, he is happy all the time."

      If you're interested in getting your dog involved or to learn more about the AOTC, click here.