Animal Assisted Intervention & Education
Maximizing Motivation and Outcomes through Animal Assisted Intervention and Education
The Animal Assisted Intervention and Education (AAIE) program is a unique addition to our therapeutic and educational offerings at The Center for Discovery. This program focuses on the integration of highly trained animals and their handlers into therapeutic sessions and educational lessons to maximize motivation and outcomes for the individuals involved. Our animals are uniquely trained to engage in a variety of ways to address the specific goals of each individual participant – activities which participants engage in with the animals can include grooming and animal care, fine motor and gross motor games, therapeutic horsemanship within our equine program, as well as participation in animal related sensory opportunities and self-regulation activities.
Meet Our Facility Dogs
Leland began The Center for Discovery's facility dog program. He is a golden retriever/Labrador mix and was born on August 20, 2014. Leland was raised as a puppy by Thomas and Jennifer Newton prior to entering advanced training with Canine Companions to become a facility dog. He was partnered with The Center's Clinical Director of AAIE, Sarah Merrick, who is also a certified professional dog trainer and occupational therapist, on November 4, 2016, when the program began. Sarah and Leland collaborate with clinicians across all of The Center's campuses during physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and psychology sessions. During his days off, Leland is an avid hiker and frequently camps with Sarah and her two sons.
Sully joined the facility dog program within AAIE on July 14th, 2020. He is the program's all around laid-back, goofy pup. He is a yellow Labrador retriever and was born on May 11th, 2020. Sully grew up and was trained on site at The Center for Discovery. He lives and works with Amy Heiser, an occupational therapist primarily based at The Center's Thanksgiving Farm and Community School campus, located in Hurleyville, NY. Sully loves coming to work and seeing all of his friends each day. His favorite way to spend his free time is playing fetch and receiving belly rubs.
Monti is the smartest guy who loves learning new cues and loves to do his job. He also joined the program on July 14th, 2020. Monti is a black Labrador retriever and was born on May 21st, 2020. He grew up and was trained on site at The Center for Discovery. He lives and works with Erin Shuart, an adapted physical education teacher, primarily at The Center's school campuses in Harris, NY. He also spends time working with Michelle Guanzon, a physical therapist working with The Center's adult population. Monti is the sports star of the crew and even knows how to swing a baseball bat!
Hurley is the AAIE program's social butterfly. She loves saying hello to everyone and is full of vibrant energy and enthusiasm. Hurley joined the AAIE program on July 14th, 2020. She is a black Labrador retriever and was born on May 21st, 2020 (that's correct - she's Monti's sister!). Hurley grew up and was trained on site at The Center for Discovery. She lives and works with Stephanie Parsons, a behavior analyst in The Center's adult psychology department. Hurley loves going for hikes and playing with her canine friends.
Scout, a two year old rescue, is the newest addition to The Center's team of facility dogs. He is believed to be a beagle/Jack Russell mix. He came to us after being adopted from Catskill Animal Rescue (CARE) in Liberty, NY, on June 5, 2023 and is currently in training. Since arriving at The Center, he has settled in well and has showcased his amazing temperament – calm and comfortable around many of The Center’s residents, students, and other AAIE animals. He lives with TCFD’s Clinical Director of AAIE, Sarah Merrick, and our original facility dog, Leland.
Misty & Butters
Rescued in June 2022 from a hoarding situation in Pennsylvania, they had minimal human interaction and handling. The two excelled in temperament and behavioral testing and are now superstars within The Center’s program. They provide students with educational opportunities and fun interactions with games, while participating in clinical therapy sessions.
Jasper & Violet
Rescued from a hoarding situation, Violet and Jasper’s mom came to The Center’s program in January 2018. Jasper was born at the barn at Milligan Hill on April 19, 2018. Jasper and Violet both did amazing through temperament and behavioral testing and do great work in The Center’s program. Violet and Jasper are both certified through Pet Partners and participate in therapy and educational sessions.
Charlie & Shadow
The best of friends! Shadow came to The Center’s program in 2014, and Charlie arrived in 2017. Shadow is a registered Miniature Horse that has been trained to drive, providing The Center’s students with the opportunity for cart rides. Charlie is quite versatile as he is trained to ride and drive, and is able to carry a small rider and pull a cart. They show off their tremendous skills while participating in therapy and educational sessions.
Emma & Luke
This mother son duo was donated to The Center’s program by a staff member. They are now out on location for the summer, providing TCFD’s Dayhab residents with many vocational opportunities.
Ghost & Jigsaw
These brothers came to the AAIE program as bottle babies, by way of a donation from a farm in upstate, NY. This comedic duo is currently out on location for the summer on The Center’s South Campus, providing students with vocational opportunities. It is quite the show when they play around!
Monica, Rachel & Pheobe
These three ladies were brought to The Center as bottle babies. They provide students with vocational and educational opportunities. These ladies love to go through obstacle courses with students during sessions.
Born at Sweet Hill Farm at The Center and donated to our program, he provides students with vocational and educational opportunities and loves to hang out with his best bud, Joey.
Born a triplet who had low chances at life, he was given to barn staff to be raised as a bottle baby and granted the gift of life. He was so small that he could fit into the palm of your hand. Currently, Joey is living an amazing life within the AAIE program, providing The Center’s students with vocational and educational opportunities. Joey loves to paint, play games, go through obstacle courses, and show off his tricks while participating in therapy sessions. You will often see him out around the barn with his buddy Ross – they love to be mischievous and escape their pasture so they can hang out around TCFD students.
Oliver (Kune Kune Pig) & Ms. Patsy Swine (Miniature Pig)
Our team rescued Oliver from a farm in Orange County, NY. He is a unique breed from New Zealand. They are known for their docile nature. He can often be found relaxing in his mud pond in the pasture.
Patsy was also a donation to the program. She is very vocal and tries to interact with all who walk by the pasture. She will follow right along with you.
Both of our pigs provide vocational opportunities for our students.
Ms. Pots, Jessica, Jade (Polish Rabbit), Jet, Cadbury, Comet, Hamilton, Stormy & Cloud (Lionhead Rabbits) Tom & Jerry (Satin Angora Rabbits)
Jade was donated to our program from a rabbit breeder from Grahamsville, NY. She is a retired show rabbit and provides vocational and educational opportunities in our program.
Jet our French Angora and Cadbury our English Angora provide a unique sensory aspect because of their fibrous coat.
Comet and Hamilton spend their summers out on location being cared for by Otis House residents.
Stormy and Cloud have been together since birth, these two are a bonded pair and were donated together to our program. They provide vocational and educational opportunities in our Imaginarium. They have a fine, soft fur that provides a different sensory experience from our other rabbits.
All rabbits participate in therapy and education sessions with residents and students, providing vocational tasks for DayHab residents, as well as playing games and painting.
We received two Satin Angora rabbits Tom and Jerry. They came to us on August 22nd at the age pf 16 weeks. They are both male rabbits. Tom and Jerry are currently involved in our fibers arts program with Rachel Carrigan. The residents who participate in the fiber arts are learning all about the Satin Angora rabbits and how their fur is incorporated in the fiber arts program and used within the yarn and various fiber projects. The rabbits go out to the programs and spend the day with them. Everyone is really enjoying Tom and Jerry and helping to socialize them.
Ginny, Hermione, Luna & Tonks
Recently added to our animal interaction and education program at Milligan Hill, they are providing vocational opportunities for many Dayhab residents. These ladies are in the process of being trained to participate in sessions with students.
Reptiles & Amphibians
Leopard Gecko & Chubby Toad
We have a variety of frogs, toads, geckos, and lizards. They are all part of our educational program. Students get to learn about their habits and what they do for the environments they live in and while being able to observe them.
Rapunzel came to us from a company that wild captures Iguanas in Florida where they are an invasive species to that environment. This helps to control the population of Iguanas there. She is only about 2 years old, but as she, gets older our goal is to be able to leash train her to participate in sessions.
Flynn was a baby when he came into our program and has just recently moved into an all-new enclosure. Bearded Dragons are a very docile reptile and are a great with people. Flynn is part of our education program and allows students to be able to explore how textures of animals are different. They have a very course scaly skin, which is very different from a soft furry rabbit.