Community Spotlight: Go Team Therapy Dogs

Happiness can be elusive, but Charlie Brown fans know that it can also be as simple as a warm puppy.

That’s key to the mission of Go Team Idaho Therapy Dogs, a group of 92 committed volunteer handlers and 98 specially trained canines who visit schools and other organizations to provide a unique connection.

“Dogs comfort humans. It’s as simple as that,” said Jo Egbert, Go Team Idaho coordinator. “They bring their blood pressure down and they comfort them when they’re grieving. When someone’s sick they can put their hands on a dog and feel better. I’ve seen it almost every time I’m out at an event. I call them magic moments – that moment when you see your dog do their thing.”

Egbert has been a volunteer her entire adult life but says that volunteering with her dogs Denali and Kodiak and experiencing those magic moments is the most rewarding thing she’s ever done.  

The Go Team dogs visit several Nampa schools monthly, providing a connection for students feeling stress, anxiety, or the effects of depression.  Time and again Jo has seen one of the dogs pick out a particular student and head straight for them, sensing a need for connection that others might not notice.

“The dog just knows,” she said. People have spent up to an hour crying and holding a dog as they work through their pain.

The Go Team visits Nampa High the first Wednesday of every month, which has become Librarian Jessica Vanderveen’s favorite day. “I’ll get the student who walks in grumpy because of a bad day and they kind of mosey over to the dogs. Eventually, they are sitting on the floor petting the dogs and talking to the owner. By the end of lunch, they leave with smiles,” she said. “We are so lucky they come visit us.”

Spotlight on a Day

One of our littlest dogs, Dolly Grace, and her handler go to Nampa High quite often, where they developed a relationship with a young man with special needs. He would spend the whole time with Dolly Grace in his lap and just love on her. It just made his day. Every time she came, she would find him. Dolly Grace is pretty funny, she likes to sit on laps. So, if a kid sits and crosses their legs, she will jump into their lap. For four years at NHS, she was always there with him.

Becoming Involved

If you work with a special needs population or are dealing with a stressful situation or the aftermath of a crisis and would like to request a visit from the Go Team Idaho dogs, contact Jo Egbert at  [email protected]. A team member will evaluate your request and work it into the calendar.

To become a member of the team, you need to have a relatively calm dog who is friendly and likes to say ‘hi.” You will need to complete the Canine Good Citizen Program through the AKC, undergo an evaluation, and complete a certification weekend.