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Mar. 25, 2011

Meet Wally the Therapy Dog

by Ally Ruchman

Hi. I’m Ally Ruchman. I’m a junior at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson, New Jersey. I would like to introduce Wally. He is one of those magical creatures who, by his mere presence, can manage to make both men and women begin speaking baby talk within seconds! People lose their sense of self around him. His tail always wags as if he doesn’t have a care in the world and his fur is velvety-soft -- this makes for endless possibilities. Smiles. Laughter. Rekindling memories. Even revealing deep, dark secrets. His chocolate brown, soulful eyes are irresistible. Sometimes I forget that Wally is a five year-old beagle.

In 2009, I trained Wally to become a therapy dog. He had helped me to relax when I had to undergo an MRI in late 2008. He provided a blanket of comfort, hope, and distraction. Thinking about Wally as my body was pushed through a hole that barely seemed big enough, inspired me to get him certified. He was the best motivator, and inspired me to do the same for others. Even though his sense of smell dominates the way he sees the world, his sweet temperament and calm personality made the training process possible.

Wally and I have undergone a two year journey since his certification. We visit the library and hospital on a regular basis, in an effort to spread “Wally magic.” Our efforts have taken us down many roads, including science, culminating in a research project that scientifically proved that dogs can sufficiently relax people undergoing MRI’s thereby helping eliminate the need for sedatives. The research abstract, entitled “Animal Assisted Anxiolysis Prior to MRI,” will be presented at a national medical conference in May.

I am eager to share my journey with everyone. The “Wally Diaries” are the many adventures that Wally and I have shared with the hundreds of people that we have met.

_______________________
Ally Ruchman is a junior at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in Rumson, NJ. She loves animals, reading, science, and traveling.

About Ally Ruchman

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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