Merlin, a 5-year-old Borzoi hound, will serve as a therapy dog for the newly formed K9 Action Team. He and his owner, Susan Bandsma, will be the first Red Cross K9 Action Team in the state.
“My husband and I adopted Merlin in 2011,” said Bandsma, who started with the Red Cross in St. Joseph five years ago. “I thought that Merlin had the perfect temperament for being a therapy dog so we went through the program and he was certified.”
Dogs in the program provide comfort for disaster victims and volunteers, as well as to the military and their families. During pet therapy, people are invited to pet, brush, play games or simply sit with the dogs in order to provide therapeutic contact.
The program began in 2009, and the first team served the Red Cross chapter in Trumbull County, Ohio.
Bandsma said she first had the idea to volunteer Merlin for the Red Cross when she heard about pet therapy programs in hospitals. She researched the necessary training for Merlin to become a member with the Red Cross and had him certified.
Merlin will be able to take part in parades, health fairs, military homecomings, pet CPR classes and other Red Cross events.