by Aisha Rallonza
There are a lot of people who own dogs. There are a lot of people who love dogs. But only few of those people have what it takes to become a Human-Animal Team or as we call them here in Communitails, a HAT. An aspiring HAT has to go through two courses, an evaluation, and an observation period. The two courses are crucial, because it is in these courses that one learns the necessary information for becoming a HAT, but what exactly goes on in a HAT Training course?
The first training course is entitled The Fundamentals of Animal Assisted Intervention. Among the topics are an introduction to AAI, animal welfare considerations to be made in AAI, and the partner and the human handler together as a team. Among these, one of the most interesting topics is animal welfare and what considers its lack. Communitails always aims to be cognizant of the animal welfare of therapy dogs going to sessions. Learning about animal welfare helps deepen one’s appreciation for your pets while at the same time helping one understand them better.
The second training course is called Canine Body Language, but the topics range past that. There is a lecture on canine body language, but also lectures on infection risk and prevention, and also a workshop on active listening, a skill HATs will need to have if they are bringing therapy dogs into situations where participants may want to talk. Active listening, aside from being useful in sessions, is also a valuable life skill that helps one be more in tune with the people around them.
As an intern, I get to help arrange and assist during these courses, and one of the most striking things to notice are the participants. They come from all walks of life, vets, animal trainers, psychologists, college students, IT specialists, bankers, those who are retired, and many more. There is no one cookie cutter type of person that makes a good HAT. It’s all about the effort they’re willing to put in. By showing up to these courses, these humans have showed that they have the drive to learn more about things they don’t yet know in the part of an effort to help others.
“There is no one cookie cutter type of person that makes a good HAT.”
These humans do have one thing in common though. All of them are animal lovers. Most had dogs of their own while some had cats too. If there’s no exact type of human to make a good HAT, the same definitely goes for dogs. These people had dogs ranging from big to small, young to old, purebred to aspin. The only thing that makes a good therapy dog is a good temperament and a trained handler.
After these courses, the humans who wish to become HATs will undergo an evaluation where both human and animal together will be tested. If you’re interested in becoming a HAT, stay tuned to our Facebook page for announcements on the next batch of courses!
Aisha Rallonza is a 20 year old Creative Writing major at Ateneo de Manila University. They enjoy collecting marbles, playing with their dogs, and seeing trees. Find more of their writing at birdscreeches.tumblr.com