When the Waldo Canyon wildfire’s 17-day blaze devasted the Colorado Springs community and displaced 32,000 locals, Nancy Trepagnier knew she and her dogs, Tabor and Snickers, could help. Already trained therapy dogs, their small but mighty team spent days bringing comfort, smiles and calm to distraught residents and exhausted first-responders – helping a struggling community in a way most don’t realize dogs can.
The fire helped Nancy see the critical need for more well-trained therapy dog teams like her own, inspiring her to found Go Team Therapy, Crisis and Airport Dogs. Today, the Go Team is a rapidly growing nationwide organization with hundreds of dogs and handlers trained, plus groups overseas. The mission? Produce well-trained, certified handler-dog teams and place these real-life heroes in programs and spaces where they offer comfort, caring and assistance to those in need – again, in the way only a dog can.
“Most people can understand first-hand the natural ability dogs have to comfort people,” says Nancy. “With their families, that can be as simple as cuddling up on the couch. But, when it comes to crises and sensitive environments, that takes training.”
Quality of training and breed variety sets the Go Team and its super star trainees apart from other programs. Their dogs undergo extensive training, completing more than 20 hours over the course of a two-day class. Unlike other programs, all breeds are welcome to apply – anything from Rottweilers to terriers. The class features real-life situational training at multiple venues and focuses as much on the handlers as the dogs. They are also required to be re-certified every year. In their words, “training never stops.”
Go Team handler-dog teams serve in a wide variety of settings, including disaster sites, assisted living homes, libraries, schools, airports and hospitals – anywhere a therapy dog team is needed. While they’re not actors, casting is still crucial. That’s why the organization takes a personalized approach, placing dogs based on their talents and fit for the role, and letting handlers volunteer as their schedule allows.
From a blockbuster beginning, the organization continues to grow to meet public need, seeing unprecedented demand for therapy dogs over the past year. So, who will be the next cast of heroes to join the cause? Spoiler: Grant Thornton dogs and their owners.
“For me, having my dog trained as a therapy dog was an easy choice,” says Melissa Markhardt, an audit manager for Grant Thornton. “If she can give others just a little bit of the love she has given to me, it will be so worth it.”
Can’t wait to watch? Follow along on our social channels to see the journey of our firm’s four-legged friends and teammates as they become certified members of the #GoTeamGT – and learn how to get your dog involved too.