My husband recently wrote an article about the work of Canines for Christ of Greater Cincinnati, a ministry that, as a Christian and pet photographer, I support. His piece is reprinted with permission below.
It’s Monday night, November 11th, 2019. I am sitting at a bistro table in our church’s central gathering area, working on this article and watching and listening to my wife as she conducts a dog training class. She’s working with several dogs and their owners, reviewing techniques they’ve learned over the past few weeks. It’s the last session of an eight-week class conducted here at our church, Whitewater Crossing Christian Church in Cleves, Ohio. Whitewater, in coordination with Canines for Christ of Greater Cincinnati, provides these classes to help prepare dog owners and their pets for the AKC (American Kennel Club) Canine Good Citizen test.
Some might question the wisdom of letting dogs (or any pets) inside a church. But the church’s effort here is more than just that of serving a community by allowing another organization to use a building. The Canine Good Citizen test is actually kind of a big deal. Dogs that pass the test are generally regarded as good, well-trained animals: gentle, happy, great with adults and kids, and responsive to directions given to them by their owners. Passing the test qualifies the dogs to work as certified therapy dogs in private and community settings. This is a unique opportunity for dog and owner and an important aspect of the work being done by Canines for Christ.
Canines for Christ of Greater Cincinnati is a Christian, animal-assisted therapy ministry. Founded in 2010 by Bill and Pam Fox and their friend, Steve Bader, the organization started out as an outreach of the Sharonville United Methodist Church. Bill and Pam saw an opportunity for well-trained dogs to be an extension of the care Christians should show for one another. Some individuals in need of ministry respond better to animals than they do to other people. And some Christians, who feel awkward attempting to minister, are more comfortable with a canine companion by their side.
Canines for Christ’s started offering basic classes for dog owners with no experience in training their pets. The owners pay a fee to cover the cost of training and testing their pets. Those who successfully complete the class, and whose dogs pass the test, have the option to volunteer to serve on therapy teams. Community groups and businesses, or public entities such as schools and libraries, in need of such teams for special events contact the Canines staff who then organize a team of dogs and handlers to be on hand. Opportunities for therapy teams range from fun, family-oriented events to times of stress, crisis, or grief.
Training a dog is really about teaching the owner. Bader is a long-time dog trainer with a career spanning more than 25 years. Starting out, his expertise combined with almost immediate interest from the church and community brought rapid growth in class numbers. The group reorganized as a full-fledged Ohio non-profit 501(c)(3) in 2012 with Bader as the lead instructor.
Currently, Canines for Christ offers training classes at various locations throughout Greater Cincinnati, including regular westside Cincinnati classes at the Whitewater Crossing church (mentioned above) and eastside Cincinnati classes at the Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Wyoming.
Dogs have long been viewed as essential partners by military and law enforcement professionals and as valued service companions by adults and children with medical problems or disabilities. But recent years have also seen growing interest in dogs as part of ongoing programs that support mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.
My wife Barb is a wholehearted believer in the work that Canines is doing. In addition to being a pet photographer, she is a former certified dog trainer. She helps out with Canines training classes by working as a volunteer assistant. Participation helps her keep up with dog training techniques. It also allows her to see firsthand the love and heart the dogs bring to all whom they encounter. Plus, it’s fun! After all, who can resist the charm of a bunch of energetic dogs and pups?
Maybe it’s time to consider allowing your furry family member to minister in ways that you can’t. Canines for Christ of Greater Cincinnati is scheduling upcoming classes for 2020. If you’re interested in participating or learning more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, check out the websites listed below.
Whitewater Crossing Christian Church, 5771 OH-128, Cleves, OH 45002 – (513) 661-5811
Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 334 Burns Ave., Wyoming, OH 45215 – (513) 821-5341
Sharonville United Methodist Church, 3751 Creek Road, Cincinnati, OH 45241