Therapy Dog Wins Mayoral Race In Fair Haven, Vermont

There was an unusual mayoral candidate on the ballot in Fair Haven Vermont. His name is Murfee, the therapy dog. The 3-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel was elected as pet mayor of the town, in a bid to raise funds for the children’s playground. Murfee is now officially the face of Fair Haven Vermont. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the election allowed children to vote. The vote was unanimous and Murfee was chosen. It must have been a tight race for the mayoral position as there were other potential animals on the ballot.

Murfee’s Rivals

There were 18 animals on the ballot among them the incumbent, a goat and a 6-year-old German shepherd town police dog called K9 Sammy. Mayor Mara Lincoln is a 3-year-old Nubian goat. He is now the former mayor of Fair Haven as Murfee won with a landslide. Murfee managed to garner 146 votes in the election and was declared the new mayor. Lincoln followed with 122 votes while Sammy the K9 came in a close third with 117 votes in total. Last year’s race was tight as Lincoln had emerged the winner by just three votes. Fair Haven has for two years had the tradition to elect a four-legged animal as mayor. The honorary position started when the town decided to turn things around and use the position for good. The position is meant to raise money for replacing the elementary school playground in the community.

Speaking to CNN, Joe Gunter, the town manager of Fair Haven stated that the pet mayoral race brings the community together at a time when politics is contentious. He insisted that the exercise was a great way to teach the children about civics and the importance to participate in elections. Fair Haven is a town in west Vermont that boasts of a small population of 2,952 people across 17 square miles. 644 of the voters present were elementary school children. With just $5, a pet owner can enter their pet in the mayoral race.

As A Mayor

Murfee is scheduled to divide his time between paying therapeutic visits to hospitals through the Caring Canines Therapy Dogs of Southern Vermont and making appearances at fundraising events across the town. Murfee’s owner Linda Baker shared her enthusiasm for her pet as she expressed belief in Murfee’s capabilities. She stated that Murfee is a leader and has proven himself quite severally, including raising money through his bake sale. Murfee so far has raised $570. Baker interpreted Murfee’s winning reaction to woof. That, she says, translated to him wondering whether there would be extra treats and special services for him now that he is mayor.

What are Therapy Dogs?

A therapy dog is trained to provide comfort affection and support to people in retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, and schools, just to mention a few. Therapy dogs undergo rigorous tests to ensure that they are fit for the task. Classic tests ensure that a dog can handle strange or sudden loud noises, can walk on unfamiliar surfaces without strain, and isn’t afraid of people with canes or wheelchairs. Additionally, they are also trained to get along with children and the elderly.

History Of Therapy Dogs

The idea of animal-assisted therapy was pioneered by Florence Nightingale. She discovered that patients in a psychiatric ward suffering from anxiety would calm down if they spent time with small animals. Sigmund Freud believed that dogs could sense certain tension levels felt by his patients. He also used his dogs to communicate with his patients. He believed that the patients would find it comforting to be around the dogs before opening up to him. Elaine Smith who was also a nurse discovered the therapeutic effect that dogs had on her patients when a chaplain and his dog visited the institution. She eventually started a program to train dogs to visit hospitals and other institutions and thus the demand for therapy dogs picked up.

Types Of Therapy Dogs

There are three types of therapy dogs:

  1. Therapeutic Visitation Dogs – These are the most common types of therapy dogs. Most times they are simply household pets. Their owners usually take them to hospitals or rehabilitation centers to visit patients. These dogs are useful in improving the patients’ mental health through encouragement and socialization.
  2. Animal-Assisted Therapy Dogs – These types of therapy dogs usually serve to provide patients with assistance in reaching their goals towards recovery. Their main duty is to assist patients gain motor skills, hand, and eye coordination and use of limbs. The dogs achieve this by walking the patients through some games and activities. These dogs are usually found in rehabilitation facilities.
  3. Facility Therapy Dogs – These dogs are usually based in nursing homes together with their handlers to help patients with mental and cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

What Is The Difference Between A Service Dog And A Therapy Dog?

It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two. However, according to Wikipedia, a service dog is a dog that is trained individually to work or perform certain tasks for the benefit of a disabled Individual. Service dogs are trained to help patients with disabilities handle their day to day physical needs. Most service dogs have a no-petting policy. This is to keep them from being distracted while on the job. Therapy Dogs, on the other hand, are trained to interact with everyone and not just their handlers. Some states define therapy animals while others don’t. This means that the animals aren’t protected by federal laws.

These animals can, therefore, be barred from accessing restaurants, businesses, and many other locations. If allowed, institutions usually have certain requirements for therapy dogs. In Canada, the St John Ambulance provides certification for therapy dogs. In the UK there is the Pet As Therapy (PAT) which provides visiting dogs, to institutions, where animals are otherwise not allowed. The UK also has TDN or Therapy Dogs Nationwide which allows dogs to visit establishments.

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