It was with great interest we read the Dec. 10 story "Therapy dogs making move from hospital room to classroom" on the reading program at the Woodland schools. My wife and I have been doing animal-assisted therapy for more than 17 years. When we started, there were no certifications necessary. As time went by, folks wanted some way of knowing your dog (and you) were acceptable to work in their facility. Thus, certifications began.
Dove Lewis, in Portland, has a very comprehensive program that allowed a team to work anywhere. Then there are programs such as the story mentioned, Therapy Dogs International. Five of our eight Goldens were certified through T.D.I. When we wanted to work a couple of our exceptional dogs in the local hospital, we were told that only Dove Lewis-certified dogs were acceptable, so we certified through Dove Lewis.
I recommend certifying with Pet Partners (Delta Society). If you certify at a "complex" level, you may work your dogs in local hospitals and elsewhere.
My wife and I have spent four years at PeaceHealth with our Goldens, Harlow and Crunch, as well as doing Read to Dogs at the local libraries, and working at juvenile detention programs.
Scotty and Michael Richardson