Therapy dogs' mission is to brighten spirits of hospital patients


April 13, 2000|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S A dog's life at National Capital Therapy Dogs, headquartered in Highland.

These canine volunteers and their handlers brighten the lives of hospital patients around the area.

National Capital Therapy Dogs (NCTD) was formed in 1990 by Wayne and Shari Sternberger of Highland and Jane Bartholomew of Columbia.

The Sternbergers and Bartholomew had been involved with Fidos For Freedom, but that organization decided to eliminate its therapy dog program.

FOR THE RECORD - In a Neighbors column April 13, it was incorrectly reported that Fidos for Freedom had eliminated its therapy dog program. It had been suspended briefly, but the program remains in operation. The Sun regrets the errors.

"Shari and I decided we couldn't live without doing therapy work," Wayne Sternberger said.

So the Sternbergers elected to keep that part of the organization alive and formed NCTD.

At a volunteer training session held Saturday at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia, the Sternbergers and Marlene Truesdell worked with Truesdell's two Labrador retrievers, Bianca and Claire.

Truesdell, of Woodbine, is president of NCTD and coordinates activities. The three showed trainees how their dogs must pass a series of tests, including accepting a friendly stranger, knowing how to sit on command and staying in place.

Volunteers will return next month to have their animals evaluated.

Cindi Gasch of Woodbine attended the volunteer training. She teaches kindergarten at St. John's Lane Elementary School and hopes to take Jake, her mother's Labrador mix, on hospital visits.

Kathy Brooks of Fairfax, Va., joined NCTD because of its association with the Delta Society.

"I like the fact that Delta has such a wide network and offers additional training," Brooks said. "They offer a lot more training and volunteer opportunities."

Brooks has two Bouvier des Flanders she hopes can work in the program.

NCTD has adopted the Pet Partners Standards of the Delta Society, which outlines certification criteria for dogs, cats and rabbits to become therapy animals.

The Sternbergers helped write the standards for Delta.

"We have seen a whole lot of situations and scenarios where dogs were exposed to really strange environments," said Wayne Sternberger, "and unless you're prepared to handle that and you demonstrate that [the dog and handler team] can handle that, then you stand the risk of taking a chance with the safety of the people you are visiting, and the safety of the animal yourself as well. So you have to have a reliable, stable animal."

NCTD visits health facilities in the Baltimore and Washington area, including the National Institutes of Health, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Taylor Manor and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Besides providing service to ill people, it offers participants a social outlet. The camaraderie keeps many people involved.

And, according to Truesdell, the dogs enjoy the visits. Wayne Sternberger's enthusiasm for the program he formed is apparent as he describes his more than 800 visits to hospitals and facilities with his dogs.

His English setter, Merlin, accompanies him on the visits.

"All we have to do is get you to your first visit, and you're hooked," he said.

Information: 301-854-0403.

Pugliese watercolors

View watercolor landscapes by artist Aileen Pugliese at Glenelg Country School this month.

Pugliese, who teaches in Howard County, documented her thoughts and feelings from her travels to Italy, Greece and Alaska, as well as the Chesapeake Bay, in her watercolor paintings.

The exhibit is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through April 25 in the Middle School Art Gallery, 12793 Folly Quarter Road, Glenelg.

Information: Valerie Teal, 410-531-2229, Ext. 2956.

Frisky's sanctuary

If you love yard sales and flea markets, you won't want to miss this one.

Volunteer Sandy Davison of Frisky's Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary has organized a garage and yard sale from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekend this month.

Manager Colleen Layton said Frisky's has many items, including thousands of books at great prices.

Frisky's, 10790 Old Frederick Road, Woodstock, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of wildlife and primates.

Information: 410-418-8899.


Winners of Bushy Park Elementary's schoolwide Book Float contest have been selected.

Noelle Shea, Brook Myers, Nicholas Ryan and Wynne Carter won in kindergarten.

Nathan Gorey and Jessica Shoenenberger were the first-grade winners.

In second grade, Michael O'Leary and Hope LaHayne were triumphant.

Winners in third grade were Sera Mannarelli and James Ennis.

Amber Winterling and Tyler Burford won in the fourth grade, and fifth-grade winners were Nicole Myers and Zachary Thompson.

Andrew Burch, a senior at Glenelg High School, has been awarded the Banneker/Key Scholarship to the University of Maryland, College Park.

The scholarship will cover tuition, board and fees.

Third-grader Natalie Camanile of Lisbon Elementary won regional third place in a Safety Belt Poster contest sponsored by GEICO.

Karen Arnie of Glenwood was recognized for her 10 years of service at Western Maryland College in Westminster.

Meaghan McDermott of Woodstock showed the most improvement during this season for indoor track at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville.

Lisbon Elementary pupil Courtney Knill won an award of excellence at the state level for her photographic entry in the Reflections program.

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