Therapy dogs help with stress reduction and reading skills

5374f673e8663.image every time Murphy is in the car with his owner Meghan Goldfinch Hayden, someone tries to  stop her to say hello.

“I will sometimes sit in the parking lot to talk on the phone and someone will come up to me and tap on the glass saying they want to meet Murphy,” she said. “It is funny. People love him.”

Murphy, an almost 2-year-old Goldendoodle, even has his own Facebook page and Twitter account thanks to his work as a certified therapy dog and grief counselor through the nonprofit Canine Angels and at Hillcrest Cemetery, Goldfinch Funeral Home and Loyal Companions Pet Cremation and Memorial. Hayden said Murphy is very involved on Facebook and in his work.

“There are pictures of him working with children and helping people here at the funeral home,” she said. “He is very popular and people always want to know what he is doing.”

The use of therapy dogs in Horry County in on the rise, according to Jeanne Maxon, therapy dog coordinator with Canine Angels. “Right now we have 20 dogs and 26 handlers who work as therapy dogs,” she said. “We have so many requests for dogs to come to schools, the nursing homes and to other places and we, as volunteers, don’t have the time to do it all.”

Maxon said the therapy dogs are used to reduce stress, teach children how to read aloud and bring smiles to people’s faces. “We started just at nursing homes, but then we branched out to schools where the kids read to the dogs,” she said. “Right now, we go to Shallotte, St. James and North Myrtle Beach Elementary and the kids just love it. It improves their reading skills and helps them with public speaking. It also improves their self-esteem because the dog could care less if the child makes a mistake. They just want to be loved and read to.”

Hayden said Murphy loves going to hospitals, nursing homes, retirement centers and schools, but he especially loves taking care of the people who are grieving. “When a family comes in to plan a service, Murphy is always available to help take their mind off their pain,” she said. “He loves on them and shows them how much he cares and makes them laugh.” Murphy also helps keep the children occupied who may not understand what is going on around them.

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