By BRENNA GRITEMAN
Funday Sunday gatherings at the Mazza Museum already attract an average of 750 to 800 people each month. But that number might grow even higher when word gets out that specially trained dogs will be joining the literary lineup.
Every month — specifically from 1:30-3:30 p.m. the first Sunday of the month — a trio of therapy dogs from the Findlay nonprofit Pawsible Angels will be on hand to greet children and families at Funday Sunday. Pawsible Angels president and CEO Michele Frank says the goal is to educate people on proper behavior around therapy dogs. In a roundabout way, it will also teach children dog bite prevention, as they’ll learn how and when to approach a strange dog.
As therapy dogs take on a greater presence in city and county schools, Frank says children are growing up with an innate sense of how to handle the cuddly canines.
But there are differences between service dogs and therapy dogs, and she says children should always ask first when approaching even the friendliest of dogs.
Therapy dogs, the type Pawsible Angels will have on hand at the Mazza Museum, are programmed “to approach people and say hi. Their focus is to make everyone feel better,” Frank says.
“Most therapy dogs will always be vested and will in some way say ‘please pet me,'” Frank says, adding that it is “absolutely” OK to approach a therapy dog in public, as long as you ask first.
Service dogs, on the other hand, are working when you see them out in public and should not be approached. A service dog is trained specifically to mitigate its handler’s disability, “so it’s focusing on its person,” Frank says. A service dog is trained to ignore all other people and animals that cross its path, and it is constantly “watching and waiting to do its job.”
Frank says a service dog is not required to wear a vest, but will be easily identified because it is always calm and collected, never barking or tugging at its leash, and is constantly looking back at its handler. Frank says it is important not to approach a service dog, because distracting the dog could put its handler’s health and safety at risk.
Because children are growing up in an environment in which both service and therapy dogs are being increasingly utilized, Frank says youth tend to understand the rules of interacting with them better than members of the older generations. She says the Funday Sunday gatherings will help educate all who attend, which will also benefit the dogs and their handlers.
Heather Sensel, education coordinator at the Mazza Museum, points out dogs are a regular presence on the University of Findlay campus, making the partnership with Pawsible Angels a good fit. She adds the museum has many pieces of art related to dogs.
Pawsible Angels was founded in 2016 and is led by a six-member board of directors. The agency trains therapy dogs and service dogs for humans who need them.
Funday Sunday gatherings are free and take place from 1:30-3:30 p.m. the first Sunday of the month at the Mazza Museum. The events include storytelling, art stations, interactive activity stations, music, refreshments and special guests.
Use the address 201 College St., Findlay, for directions.
Themes for the 2020 season include:
Jan. 5: Mad Scientist
Feb. 2: Wild Safari
March 1: Wild, Wacky Weather
April 5: Creatures of the Night! “Nocturnal Adventure” (this one held at the Toledo Zoo)