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Unwanted shoes may help a local girl earn a much-wanted puppy.

It’s not just any puppy that Emily Poe is seeking. Poe wants to get a minigolden doodle puppy to train to be a therapy dog. Both will need to go through training to be certified as a therapy dog team.

Poe, 12, launched a fundraiser through the national organization Funds2Orgs. Her family is collecting shoes, which the organization purchases from them to send to developing countries where people use them to start microenterprises, or small businesses.

Poe set a goal to raise $4,000 by December 2019. By then, she will be 14 and will begin working with the dog on the way to becoming a certified trainer at 16 years old. The funds will be used to buy the dog as well as to pay for traveling expenses, the first vet and grooming expenses and training for a year.

Poe is a homeschooled student in the sixth grade.

Q. What is “Four Paws and Two Feet?”

A. Four Paws and Two Feet is what I am calling my journey to get a puppy and train it to be a therapy dog. I hope that after my dog and I become a therapy dog team, I can make Four Paws and Two Feet into a support group for junior handlers and young people interested in becoming therapy dog handlers. Hopefully, it will get a good start and become a good resource for others in the community who are in the group.

Q. Who do therapy dogs help, and how do they help?

A. Therapy dogs help a wide range of people. In a hospital, a therapy dog can help patients feel happy and motivate them to get better. For some people, touching a dog can actually calm them and lower their blood pressure. In a nursing home, a therapy dog can help residents exercise and bring them joy. In a school or library, a therapy dog can be a support to kids as they read and learn. Therapy dogs can also help by comforting people when they have experienced a tragedy or life changing circumstance, such as addiction, school violence, a fire, or a death of someone close to them. One important thing about a therapy dog is that it is always there to love people not matter what their background or challenges may be.

Q. Describe the training you and the dog will need to complete to become certified.

A. Each therapy dog training program is unique and has different requirements. Most require training for the handler, as well as for the dog. Handler training often focuses on how to understand animal body language, keep your dog safe, interact with people you help and follow the regulations and rules of places the team will visit. Dog training often focuses on basic obedience, as well as how to avoid distractions, show restraint and interact well with people. My dog will also need to be comfortable in different situations, comfortable around all types of people, and healthy and up to date on all vaccinations. Most programs have a test you must pass in order to become officially certified as a therapy dog team.

Q. What drew you to pursuing this training?

A. First, I love dogs and I want other people to experience what it feels like when I spend time with my dogs. When I touch a dog, I can literally feel relief flood through me. Sometimes I say that I even feel like Jell-O. Second, I tend to be shy, but still want to make a difference in my community. Being a therapy dog team will help me do that in two ways. First, the center of attention will not be on me, but on my dog. That will help me feel more comfortable in that situation. Second, if I get nervous, I can just reach down and touch my dog. My dog will not only help others, but also help me.

Q. How can people help with your fundraising?

A. I have several fundraisers planned over the next two years. Right now there are three ways people can help me fundraise: support my shoe drive, donate items for a yard sale, or give a donation on GoFundMe. I am collecting new or gently used shoes through April and May. Shoes can be dropped off at the following locations: Appalachian Running Co., Mechanicsburg BIC Church, Fleet Feet Sports, the Mechanicsburg Earth Day Festival (on April 21). More details can be found on Facebook at “Shoe Drive for Four Paws and Two Feet.” I am planning a yard sale on May 5 and would love any donations you could give to sell at the sale. I would also love for people to come and shop. You can contact my family at 717-580-4304 if you are interested in donating items. Finally, if you would just like to donate money toward my journey, you can contribute at https://www.gofundme.com/four-paws-two-feet-therapy-dog. Thank you for helping make my dream become a reality.

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.

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