Sandra Greenman, handler of the therapy dog Shiva, held a memorial service at the Riverstone Animal Hospital in Canton for her late dog that served the victims and family members of those who were affected during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Greenman said she hoped other dog owners would be inspired to get their dog certified because the physical and emotional benefits for those whom therapy dogs help are very important.
Greenman, a Canton resident, said Shiva was certified as a therapy dog and began serving at the Pentagon in 2001.
“Shiva got her certification about one month before 9/11, and that was our first experience with her being a service dog. They did not have disaster relief therapy dogs before then,” Greenman explained. “She was about 2 years old.”
Charles Baranowski, a dog trainer and member of Therapy Dogs International, the nonprofit organization that certified Shiva, spoke at the service.
Baranowski said Therapy Dogs International has more than 24,000 registered dogs in the U.S. and Canada, and the dogs help whenever disaster strikes.
“They were in Oklahoma when the bombing happened, they are there after every hurricane,” he said. “There were about 1,000 dogs there after 9/11.”
Baranowski said to become certified, the dog and its handler must pass a 15-step test, and about 60 percent of dogs pass.
He said by the time a dog is certified, “they’re perfect” for the job.
Therapy dogs provide emotional support for people in all walks of life. From school children who need encouragement when learning how to read to seniors in assisted living housing, Baranowski said the dogs help with all sorts of things.
Sen. Brandon Beach (R- Alpharetta) and his wife, Shuntel, attended the memorial and showed their support for the therapy dogs who served the county, and continue to help people in the community.
Born April 17, 1999, Shiva lived almost 15 years, dying last September. Greenman said Shiva worked as a therapy dog from 2001-06, and encouraged others to certify their dogs for therapy work.
“It’s scientifically proven that dogs can reduce a person’s blood pressure and lower stress,” Greenman added.
She told a story about a woman who was afraid of dogs, but allowed Greenman and Shiva to sit beside her on a bus to the Pentagon site where Shiva was working.
One day, the woman started to pet Shiva, and every day after that, she came to see Greenman’s dog, she said.
“On the very last day, she said to me, ‘They found my sister’s finger and that’s how they identified her.’ And she said, ‘This dog has helped me get through this event, more than anything else,’” Greenman said, with tears in her eyes. “I get tears in my eyes every time I tell that story.”
Greenman presented Simone Nutt, Shiva’s veterinarian, with a framed certificate from Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense from 2001-2006, honoring the dog’s service.
“They took great care of Shiva, so we wanted them to have this in honor of her and in honor of the therapy dogs that worked for their country after 9/11,” Greenman said.
For more information on Therapy Dogs International, the evaluation process or how to register, visit the website at www.TDI-dog.org.