A Dog Doctor Brings Joy to the Village Family Service Center
He and therapist Shauna Erickson are a registered therapy team
FARGO, N.D. — An unconventional doctor at the Village Family Service Center is helping people from all walks of life.
His name is Doctor Spencer Reid, CGC, AKC.
“More credentials than his mama,” clinical supervisor and child therapist Shauna Erickson said.
Dr. Reid is a dog.
His credentials stand for Canine Good Citizen and American Kennel Club– essentially obedience certification. Of course, he’s a professional.
“Just like anyone else at the Village, he’s got his dress code of business professional,” Erickson said.
He’s stylish too. He has lots of bow tie options.
“When I say, ‘hop up on the bed,’ he knows it’s time to lay on his tummy and get that bow tie changed out so he can head off to the office,” Erickson said.
Reid and Erickson are a registered therapy team. He did weekly trainings for over a year to get certified, and Erickson always knew he’d be a doctor.
“I gave Spencer doctor right off the bat, because I knew he was going to be brilliant. And just some man crushing on the Criminal Minds show and that guy’s got that unbelievable intelligence and impact on people. It seemed fitting for a guy that was going to help me work with people,” she said.
Reid has been at the Village for the past 2 ½ years, and Erickson says he’s able to reach in clients in a way that’s different from human-to-human interaction.
He can help clients at the Village open up by creating an environment that’s safe and comfortable. Petting a fluffy dog can release the happy chemicals.
“I call it the trifecta of chemicals in our brains, those are dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin,” Erickson said.
That can be incredibly helpful when doing trauma therapy…
“He will help kids stay regulated if they’re starting to get distressed, if someone needs a break they can go to Spence and give him some pets, for clients doing more intense trauma work on my couch he’ll lay here like he is here today with his head in their laps, and he helps me teach children on the autism spectrum social skills and boundaries,” she said.
…or with kids who’ve struggled with therapy.
“I’m no different from therapists they’ve worked with, but Spence creates this completely different facet for me to present to them, and I can build rapport with kids that have placed up guards against adults or mental health professionals they’ve met in the past,” she said.
Having Spencer in the office is a joy for clients and staff members alike.
“What I get to do with Spence everyday, it is inexplicably rewarding,” Erickson said.
You don’t have to be a mental health professional to get a dog trained as a therapy animal. However, not every dog is cut out for this type of work, it really depends on their temperament.