Margaria Alves giving her dog a hug
8 September 2021

Are my kids ready for a dog? Let’s find out!

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Posted by Margarida Alves | 8-Sept-2021

Are my kids ready for a dog? Let’s find out!

As part of a partnership between Elanco and CTAC (“Centro de Terapias Asistidas con Canes”), a Center for animal-assisted therapies with dogs, employees at Elanco in Iberia volunteer to host three future therapy dogs in their homes. Margarida Alves, member of the Pet Health Product Safety Team at Elanco’s Global Pharmacovigilance Department in Portugal, shares her experience of living with her host dog “Lua” for two weeks.

Lua, which is the Portuguese word for “moon”,  is a 6-month-old black Labrador puppy with a very distinct personality. Even at her young age, she is calm, independent and very gentle.

As soon as I heard about the program to help socialize and train future therapy dogs like Lua, I knew that this was going to be just the right thing for me and my family.

Animals have an immensely positive impact on peoples’ lives. In particular, dogs have the special power to make us feel more comfortable and secure. Being able to participate in a project that will enable dogs to support children with special needs, help the elderly feel less lonely or assist humans with health issues in the future is a rewarding experience that I could not miss.

Adopting Lua into our family, were were able to expose the puppy to different everyday situations. Despite the pandemic still impacting our everyday life, we took her along whenever possible. Lua was with us when running errands, joined me in the car when dropping the kids off at school, or participated in our favorite family activities like long walks in the forest.

The objective is to socialize the dog during her first year and provide basic training before she enrolls in the specific training course for therapy dogs.

Besides, temporarily adopting a dog in our house was also a great way to test whether we are ready to have our own family dog. I am a mother of four children, aged 11, 10, seven and the youngest just two years old. My children are always asking for a dog and I had long been wondering if they were really ready to take care of an animal and accept the everyday jobs that come with being pet owners.

Living with Lua, my older kids were able to help with the logistics like taking the dog for walks, whereas the little ones enjoyed petting the dog and dish up the food that Purina provided for free. Our family worked really well together – and I think that soon we can have our own dog!

I am convinced that it’s a valuable experience to grow up with a pet: caring for an animal improves children’s sense of responsibility and helps them to learn to respect another living being.

As I am writing this article, it’s already the last day of Lua’s second stay with us - and I have mixed feelings. I already miss her around the house but I also feel proud to have been part of something bigger than us! Knowing that each of the Elanco volunteer families will expose Lua and the other dogs to different situations and rules, I am certain that these pets will develop into excellent service dogs, ready to adjust to any type of situation – even living alongside cats.

Lua is one of the first puppies to participate in the “Deixar pegadas” (“let’s leave footprints”) program at Elanco Portugal. When she grows up, she will work with animal-assisted therapy associations, supporting hospitals, nursing homes, special children's schools and social centers all across Portugal. By 2025, we expect that about 30 dogs in Spain and Portugal will have graduated from Elanco’s therapy animal education program. Together, the dogs will improve the quality of life of many people, engaging in about 25,000 therapy interactions throughout their lifetimes.

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