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Paws for a Cause! Hartford HealthCare to Expand Therapy Dog Program

September 07, 2022

Hartford HealthCare therapy dog program. The colorful ceramic dogs unveiled last week in West Hartford brought out smiles as creative themes were put on display to raise money for different nonprofit causes. From realistic looking dogs, to mosaic mirrors, to nature watercolors, each statue brings awareness to a cause, from dog adoption to food pantries. Hartford HealthCare is proud to have a dog on display as part of West Hartford’s Dog Walk 2022, to raise money for a therapy dog and handler for the Northwest Region. > Support Hartford HealthCare's Therapy Dog Program The therapy dog, Dani, would work specifically with children and families at the Center for Youth and Families in Torrington, said Joan Neveski, LCSW, clinical manager, Center for Youth and Families. The ceramic dogs were unveiled Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Blue Back Square in West Hartford. > Want more health news? Text MoreLife to 31996 to sign up for text alerts Hartford HealthCare therapy dog program. “We know kids who have experienced trauma are at higher risk for mental health concerns, and animals help reduce stress and calm them,” Neveski said. The therapy dog could sit with them during a forensic interview, where they have to talk about the trauma they went through, a therapy session or even while providing court testimony. The dog handler would also be a trained member of the team and could bring the dog out in the community, to schools or community events, to raise awareness and help people learn more about the program and services. As a prevention specialist, he will be a direct connection to our community partners and assist us to build stronger collaboration, provide trainings and improve access to services, Neveski said. The center has outpatient mental health services for youth and families, including diagnostic services, psychotherapy treatment, outpatient programs for children with autism spectrum disorders, community services, and advocacy services for child abuse cases. Hartford HealthCare therapy dog program. Artist Joanna Cistulli, of Newington, said she was excited to be involved in the project again this year, after painting the bear last year for Hartford HealthCare. “I think it is a great cause, especially after the last couple of years,” she said of a therapy dog for children’s mental health programs. She said it took about 12 to 15 hours to paint the dog, Healer, which has a therapy dog vest painted on the likeness of a yellow Labrador. Michelle Colleoni, coordinator of the Child Abuse Investigation Team of Northwest Connecticut, said she is excited for the therapy dog program. She and Neveski shared photos of the 12-week-old Portuguese Water dog, Dani. They are applying for grants and accepting donations for the new program. “It was so perfect that the animal they choose for this year was a dog,” she said of the colorful statues. “These donations will help us help kids,” Neveski said. The Hartford HealthCare dog is located in front of the Barnes and Noble. The 12 dogs will be displayed at Blue Back Square in West Hartford through October and then move to Westfarms Mall for the holiday shopping season, before going to their permanent spots. Each of the different painted dogs are sponsored by a business or nonprofit. A QR code on the dog displays links to a site where people can choose which cause they want to donate to.