Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Dogs offer therapeutic benefit


Lois E. Johnson

Sara Petry's therapy dogs were featured at the Carlton County TRIAD meeting in Moose Lake on February 1.

Sara Petry and three of her four therapy dogs came to the meeting of Carlton County TRIAD on Wednesday, February 1, at the Moose Lake Police Department.

Petry explained the dogs are Weimaraners and she and her husband use them as therapy dogs as well as for hunting. They are often grey in color and are also known as "The Grey Ghost," however, Petry's dogs are tan in color with light amber eyes.

"We belong to Therapy Dogs International," said Petry. "TDI is a volunteer, non-profit organization. We have to pass testing in obedience, agility, off leash, scent recognition, and learn to obey hand signals as well as voice commands. The dogs also learn to not eat food that has been left out. The dogs have to be good with children and they need to be vaccinated every year."

Petry's three dogs are males, ranging in age from 8 to 13 years, she said.

"We go to the nursing home, talk to people in the hall and go to every room," she added. "They sit and talk to us and pet the dog. We go to rehab, too. Petting a dog helps with muscle movement, speech and other therapy. Many of the residents have left pets at home."

According to information in a brochure about TDI, "Four-footed therapists give something special to enhance the health and well-being of others. It has been clinically proven that through petting, touching and talking with animals, patients' blood pressure is lowered, stress is relieved and depression is eased."

"When we go in a patient's room, we give them joy," said Petry. "Some save a piece of toast from breakfast and give it to my dog. I'll let the dog take it, but they are trained not to touch food. Sometimes we have gone with patients to doctor appointments. When the patient pets the dog, it calms them down. Dogs give unconditional love."

That unconditional love is key in another facility.

"We go to the Title I program at the school on Fridays each week," said Petry. "Those are the kids that need extra help with reading and math. Each kid gets a turn to read out loud to the dog. They like reading to the dogs because they don't feel judged. Sometimes they also talk to the dog and unload a lot of their feelings. Those kids tell the dogs about what they are dealing with, such as their dad is in prison or their parents are separated or that their grandma died.

"The school staff was glad to find us. They wanted to start a program at school called Tail Wagging Tutors."

Petry lives near Moose Lake and provides therapy dogs locally. Nationally, therapy dogs are often brought to the sites of disasters, such as floods, hurricanes or school shootings.

Thorough research led Petry to purchasing Weimaraners, she explained.

"I grew up with boxers," she said. "I visited breeders and ended up with this breed because of its short hair. I needed one for a companion because my husband worked out of town at the time. We both are hunters. And the life expectancy of Weimaraners is longer, around 10 years. They are taller; their heads are even with the height of the bed. The nursing home residents don't have to bend over to pet them."

More information about therapy dogs can be found on the organization's website,

Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm spoke about a program, Sheild616, where the local community can be a part of providing protection for officers.

"The program started on the Iron Range," he said. "Their mission is to equip law enforcement personnel with equipment to protect them from rifle bullets. There are seven items in each kit: a plate carrier vest with pouches, rifle-rated armor plates, ballistic helmet, monocular, gunshot wound trauma first aid kit, gas mask pouch and protective glasses.

Lois E. Johnson

TRIAD member Sheldon Larson of Wright gets acquainted with one of the therapy dogs.

"The kits would cost $2,400 each to buy outright. The organization worked out a deal with the manufacturers, and it partners with the local faith community and businesses to raise the funds to purchase the equipment at $1,000 for each officer. The equipment can be designated for a specific officer. They hope to get this equipment to every officer in Carlton County."

Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake stated it is difficult for her and Bogenholm to continue with the Carlton County TRIAD program and suggested it be combined with Refire, a weekly luncheon program in Carlton for senior citizens and others. Topics are presented to the group each week. The program is funded by a grant, said Lake. She asked the members to think about that change.

The next meeting of the Carlton County TRIAD was set for Wednesday, March 1, 10 a.m. at the senior center in Wright. A lunch will be provided.


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