Volunteer Manual

Registering Your Dog with the American Kennel Club

There are many situations for registering your dog with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and we recommend you refer to the Contact the AKC Web page to email a question or contact the AKC Operations Center directly to discuss your specific registration situation.

Earning Therapy Dog Patches / Keeping Track Of Your Visits

Registering your dog with the AKC and getting your Therapy Dog patches is something our members do on their own, but you may need our help when you apply for the higher level patches. To obtain a Therapy Dog patch, access the AKC Therapy Dog Program Web page for Therapy Dog selection and information including the labeling and quantifying of the five AKC Therapy Dog Titles which are:

  1. AKC Therapy Dog Novice (THDN)
    Must have completed 10 visits
  2. AKC Therapy Dog (THD)
    Must have completed 50 visits
  3. AKC Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA)
    Must have completed 100 visits
  4. AKC Therapy Dog Excellent (THDX)
    Must have completed 200 visits
  5. AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD)
    Must have completed 400 visits

If your dog already has over 10 visits, we would suggest you just wait until you have 50 visits. Ten visits qualify your dog for the "AKC Therapy Dog Novice" patch while 50 visits qualify it for the "AKC Therapy Dog" patch. AKC charges for every level when you apply, but you do not have to pay for levels for which you do not apply. Instead of paying the $20 for the novice patch, just work to get the 50 visits and apply just for the "AKC Therapy Dog" patch. That way you will only be charged for the "AKC Therapy Dog" patch.

Remember to log all your dog’s visits on a record including date and place. Prepare a simple log showing the number of the visit, the date and the place. No other information is necessary. Here is just a short section of my visits log:

     4447) 1/17/17 Lodges
     4448) 1/17/17 Lodges Memory Village
     4449) 1/17/17 Learning Your Function
     4450) 1/17/17 CARE
     4451) 1/18/17 Pyramid
     4452) 1/18/17 Alden Courts
     4453) 1/18/17 Elmcroft
     4454) 1/18/17 Heartland Village
     4455) 1/18/17 Manor Care

It is just that simple. Filing electronically makes it easy to apply for your patches. Please send us a copy so we also know how many visits you are making. When you get to the higher levels, AKC asks that someone at each of the facilities you visit sign your visit log or give you a note saying you have made the visits. We may be able to help you with your lists, but all of this is really only possible when you keep the "date and place" records. AKC ONLY COUNTS VISITS MADE TO "THERAPY" FACILITIES, OR SPECIFICALLY WHEN USED IN THERAPY SITUATIONS. You will be safe to count visits to hospitals, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities, schools, churches, special events, etc., but where your dog is clearly used in a therapy situation.

*SPECIAL NOTE: Your dog is a Therapy Dog, NOT a Service Dog. Federal law mandates that a Service Dog can essentially go anywhere with the person it serves. Our dogs are Therapy Dogs and not protected by that law. Any facility manager can tell you your dog is not welcome in that facility. HOWEVER, we have discovered that almost no one anywhere will question you taking your dog into a facility as long as it has its Canines for Christ vest on and is well behaved. Even better, many of the managers of these facilities tell us they enjoy our visits, because their customers like seeing our dogs. Home Depot is a great example of a business that has determined the worth of allowing customers to bring their dogs into the business. You will also enjoy the attention your dog gets in these other places and the amazing number of times you will get to witness for Christ. OUR MINISTRY IS CHRIST. WE JUST USE DOG THERAPY TO DO IT! We encourage you to take your dog with you when you go to places like Publix (groceries), Sam’s Club, and Walmart, but remember that AKC does not count those visits. Canines for Christ will count all the visits toward all our "Visit Level" Awards. Take your dog (vest on) with you and count the visit!

Making Visits

Visits made to some assisted living facilities can be as simple as showing up with your vested dog and your ID badge, walking in and starting to talk to residents. Some facilities require a sign-in and others do not. At the other extreme are facilities (often hospitals but sometimes assisted living facilities) that require a long formal volunteer application process which includes a background check and interviews before you and your dog are allowed in. It is your decision which facilities you want to serve and if a complex application process is worth the trouble to you. Many non-hospital care facilities can be served with as little as introducing yourself and your dog, producing up-to-date vaccination papers for your dog (always carry in your car) and reasonable evidence that your dog is well behaved, such as the AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate. Chaplain Larry spends much time at hospitals which have very complex formal volunteer signup process. I spend more time in assisted living facilities that require nothing more than signing in, if even that. C4C Ministry is so in demand that if a facility requires more "process" than you care to go through, simply choose another facility. It is proper and reasonable to always ask what is required before you make the first visit into the facility.

Canines for Christ is an international community service 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which has millions of visit contacts to its credit with never a single "incident." We also carry a million-dollar liability insurance policy and can provide it when asked.

Once inside the facility hallways, usually with rooms on each side, just start walking, stopping to talk with anyone in the hallways including staff. We use a CONSERVATIVE APPROACH where our first concern is to not disturb or upset anyone. Not everyone is a dog lover and not everyone wants a visit. If someone is talking to a staff member, having any kind of cleaning or medical procedure, talking on the phone, or sleeping, we do not want to disturb them. Of course, if they see you and wave you in, then you will go in. If they are talking with family they often do want you to come in. We usually just ask "Would you like to pet a dog?" We go into the room when they say "Yes" and when they say "No" we usually just say "God bless you and have a blessed day" and go to the next room.

When we receive a "Yes" which you will most of the time in this ministry, walk into the room, introduce your dog first, then yourself. Remember although our ministry is Christ, we are in the room because of the dog. You are not in there to talk about yourself, and you are not in there to start preaching. They know why you are there by the bright, easy to read "Canines for Christ" logo on the vest. You will find people who want to talk about their faith and even pray together, but always start by talking about your dog. Most of us have short little stories about our dogs, his breed, age, and maybe a bit about him that will help us break the ice, but often the resident will excitedly tell you about their dog at home or a favorite dog they once owned. Let them do that. Use your people skills to communicate.

Again, remember, this is not about us. It is about God, the dog and the resident. The first goal is always to make it a positive, fun, relaxing, uplifting interaction. Part of the joy and power of the Canines for Christ ministry is how easy it is. Your position, first, is to let God work through the dog. Usually you do not have to do a whole lot yourself. That said, we always look for opportunities to share Christ and/or say a prayer, letting the resident lead you in that direction. It is amazing how the more you do this the more opportunities you will have to share the love of Christ. Never forget, though, that your first job is to let God work through the dog.

Most room "stays" will be relatively short with a duration of maybe only one to three minutes. We don’t time them, instead using our people skills to see when a stopping point is reached. On the other hand, we have spent as long as an hour in a room when a resident really needed to talk. Sometimes you may want to reschedule with a resident to come back when both of you are more comfortable spending more time. This is God’s ministry, and we let Him lead.

These are great places for your dog to do a trick or two. My dog, Bruce, can do a series of four tricks in about 10 seconds, which I use sometimes to break the ice or draw attention to him. A cute trick used at the right time can really help, but it is not about the tricks. It is about the loving between the resident and the dog.

Always remember the STAFF in your visits. Many will love your dog as much as the residents, and often will enjoy a little light-hearted "banter" which can really help the mood. Also the staff often will identify residents who really want to see your dog. Most of the staff appreciates it when we tell them we will pray for staff too! Most often you will find them very supportive even if they are not dog lovers, because they know how much the residents love the dogs – and how good the visits make the residents feel. It is not unusual for some staff to keep treats for your dog. Your dog will love that and often remember where he got the treat and from whom.

Many facilities have therapy rooms, activity rooms or meeting rooms. We always try to go to these, because they often offer the opportunity to talk with more people. Still always ask "Would you like to pet the dog?"

Sometimes in nursing homes and more often in hospitals you will see a "CONTACT" sign hanging on a door. The sign indicates some kind of contagion or sensitivity problem. Generally it is better not to go into these rooms. It is always better to ask staff before going into a room if you have any concerns.

Your ministry will be more effective at any facility the more often you visit. The more the residents and staff get to know you, the more comfortable they will be with your visits. It is humorous and pleasant that staff and residents will often say "Here’s (name of your dog)" rather than calling out your name when you arrive.

Some facilities will want to schedule your visits, but usually how often you visit a facility is up to you. Let God lead. It would be unusual for you to visit a facility more often than they want you there. Almost always they want you there more than you can go.

Mall Visits

Reading the other "visit" information will give you good information on how we think most visits and facility "setups" should happen. Mall venues present a somewhat different scenario where you are essentially visiting people in a large space rather than in small rooms. We have found wonderful success at malls using two different techniques: 1) Be sure your dog is vested and you have your ID badge and simply start walking and interact with any people showing interest and 2) Station yourself and your dog in a central location, especially where there is cross traffic, and let people come to you. In both instances we often tell people the dog is a "petting dog." Without that information many people will think your dog (because of the vest) is a service dog and not to be touched. If you like interacting with kids the mall is a great place to go since it is usual for many kids of all ages to be at malls. We get many opportunities to witness, recruit, and share at malls. You should consider ministering at a mall on occasion if not regularly. Remember that an important part of our ministry is the "Canines for Christ" logo on the dog’s vest. That logo will be seen by hundreds of people when you go to the mall. Most malls are used to therapy dogs visiting their facility under proper control and identification. These "visual only" interactions may not be as powerful as the direct individual contacts we have with other folks, but they are a form of witness never-the-less, and reach many folks. Don’t discount the value of the sign on your dog. We know God uses all these things for His purposes.

Additional Credentials

You really do not need any additional credentials to participate in the Canines for Christ ministry. We have asked all of you to sign a statement that you are a committed Christian – something that the vest on your dog pretty much tells all who see it. Moreover this is a God-lead ministry. Our prayer before we go into any facility is that God will work through the dog and through us as Christians. It should never be about us. The rest of the prayer is that "we" will get out of the way and let God do the work. As long as you understand these points there are a few other credentials, while not at all necessary to do this ministry, some of you might want to consider.

  1. Chaplain
    Larry and I are both chaplains through an organization called Community Chaplains of America. Any of you could also achieve this designation if you are willing to go through the program. It is usual to expect your studies and work to take about a year. It can be done in much less time if you commit more time and energy. The studies will definitely better equip you to do this ministry. The bigger difference will be how people view and react to you. Still, these differences are subtle and some of the very best folks in any ministry have no credentials. Their power and effectiveness comes from a Christian life focused on getting closer and closer to God and letting Him lead and work his power, grace, and love through them. That should be our goal too. If you have an interest in pursuing this credential, we will be happy to help you. We also highly recommend the "Sharing Hope in Crisis" course offered through our Website. This will help you in communicating to people that need a Spirit-filled message.
  2. Service Dog
    Canines For Christ dogs are AKC registered Therapy Dogs with the Canine Good Citizen designation. We discuss the AKC Therapy Dog patch program in another part of this manual. A few of you may have additional needs best served by having your dog qualified as a service dog. Some service dog jobs require a great deal of intense training. A dog whose master is blind, or who has seizures, are two examples of dogs requiring this kind of intense training. Less intense training is required for dogs who serve as a PTSD service dogs. There is not a lot to gain here unless you have a real need. We might be able to help if you do.
  3. AKC Evaluator
    All Canines for Christ dogs must have passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluation. That procedure is spelled out on the AKC website if you care to research it. It involves a test consisting of ten procedures, the passing of which assures insurance, facility, and just folks that your dog is a well behaved, capable dog. This is important to our ministry for many obvious reasons. Someone has to do those evaluations for all the new dog "teams" joining our fast growing ministry. As an AKC Evaluator you can sign off on the request for this credential for any dog you feel has passed the test. We have several volunteers that are AKC Evaluators and we would like to have more. But as we reach out nationally, it will be even more important for us in other areas where we are growing quickly to have an AKC-Canines for Christ evaluator. If you have reasonably extensive experience with dogs and feel called to help our organization as an evaluator, please contact us.

Ministry Impact

"What you do to the least of these you do to me." The impact of Canines for Christ is powerful and far reaching. We do not think there is any real way to quantify how the Holy Spirit works in the individual lives of all those touched. There are some variables we can quantify, however, that verify the "reach" of the ministry. Anyone who has actually done the ministry could take those numbers and better understand its power.

ACTIVE TEAMS: We define the number of active teams by how many have paid the annual $25 fee plus how many new teams have signed up this calendar year paying the $75 sign-up fee. The fees are relatively small, but indicate a commitment by the teams paying to continue to be active. All donations are tax deductible as we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

INDIVIDUAL "VISITS" MADE: This is a powerful variable which can only be accurately computed by a reporting system that is dependent on volunteers simply keeping a record of their visits. Experience suggests that many of our members active in the ministry are resistant to any kind of formal reporting procedure, even the day/place report. We are now encouraging a twice yearly electronic report. (See: Earning Therapy Dog Patches / Keeping Track of Your Visits above).

STORIES & PICTURES: These are very popular. Many of our members send us stories and pictures documenting their activities. These stories tell in beautiful and compelling ways how those served are touched, and often, how even more blessed are our own members who are serving. We also get them from folks served and folks observing (more evidence that our reach is more than we can fully document). Many of these stories and pictures are very powerful. They can be viewed by anyone who wants to go to our web page. One of the interesting "sidelights" are stories of how excited the dogs get when they know they get to go on a visit. Our Canines for Christ dogs love their job. We produce a newsletter bi-monthly with testimonial’s and pictures of volunteers that will encourage and uplift you.

FACILITIES & EVENTS: We used to keep track of all the facilities our teams visited. That is simply not possible now with the number of volunteers we have and all the places they visit. We do want to share with our volunteers when teams use creativity in discovering new places to share the love and compassion of Christ. A couple of recent examples are visits to a car dealership and to law enforcement facilities. We encourage your stories of sharing Christ’s love when you visit a venue new to our volunteers.

THANK YOU LETTERS: We have received hundreds of thank you letters from facility staff, doctors, nurses, and directors; from people directly served, from family, and even from folks just observing the ministry. As direct service providers, we experience God’s touch on the people we visit. Having them put it into their own words helps us communicate the effectiveness of this ministry to others further confirming its "impact." We encourage these as often as possible.

MINISTRY CARDS: When you become a volunteer for Canines for Christ you are given 250 "ministry" cards with the picture of your dog on it. Of course, the card says "Canines for Christ" in bold letters, because sharing the love and compassion of Christ is what we are all about. On the back of the card is "How to Make Heaven Your Home." That includes John 3:16 and a Prayer of Surrender. Many of our volunteers have personally led people to Christ using what is written on the back of the card. We have no way of knowing how many of the approximately 150,000 cards our volunteers have handed out have also been used to help people draw closer to Christ. No doubt the number is significant. Hand your cards out when you do the ministry. We will replace them when you run low.

Recruiting

We love this ministry because we experience how easy it is to do and how powerfully God works through our dog every day. We see the beautiful responses of love and relief and fun we get. We know how many opportunities we get to pray and witness over folks who are scared or worried or are hungry for Christian fellowship. And we know how powerfully we, ourselves, are affected every day we make visits. If you do not start your visit feeling full of the Holy Spirit, then you will certainly finish feeling that way. That is why we promote your making more visits and that is why you should be eager to recruit new volunteers.

With hundreds of C4C teams in the world, we still cannot "touch" the demand for visits. Each place we visit knows how their patients are improved by these visits. Most of those facilities would love to see a dog team twice every day, and those facilities visited represent likely less than 20% of those that would like us to visit. You can see the incredible opportunity existing for many more volunteers.

Ministry cards are given at the appropriate time, always explaining that the kind of interaction we are having at that moment is what happens to us during all our visits; that people are hungry for the love and compassion these visits bring; and that they can share in this joy, love and compassion with many if they become a volunteer or if they know someone who loves dogs and Christ who would like to become a volunteer.

Each card you hand out has the Canines for Christ Web Site link that people can access for any information they may need including a phone number they can call if that is better for them. Your job is to make them want to go to the Web Site and contact us. God will open their heart in this beautiful way to serve Him and we will lead them in this journey.

For additional information, please contact:

Chaplain Steve Kesler
512-650-6820
keslergroup@gmail.com

Chaplain Larry Randolph
813-601-4937
canines4christ@gmail.com