JEFFERSON COUNTY (WKOW) -- For more than 50 years a local man has been training dogs.
Not just so they'd become good animals, but so they could bring joy to people who need it most.
71- year-old Jim Perry is our Jefferson Award winner for August.
He's spent most of his life training dogs.
But for the last 20 years, he's solely raised therapy dogs, to make the days a little brighter for patients in nursing homes and hospitals.
Jim has two Italian greyhounds and two whippets registered through Therapy Dogs Incorporated.
He takes them to Bethesda Lutheran Communities, and a number of other nursing homes and hospitals throughout Jefferson County.
The dogs serve as companions for the patients.
"It's almost like you can talk to them and they understand," says Jim. "The trainers read the dog to know how to work with them. That's something I got good at a long time ago."
Jim also trains the dogs for a program called R.E.A.D., which stands for Reading Education Assistance Dogs.
He takes them to libraries where the kids practice reading to them.
"The little kids are leaning against his shoulder and reading the book and he's looking over their shoulder at the book."
Jim says there's more of a demand for registered therapy dogs than there are dogs to meet that demand.
"I have had to turn down many nursing homes that we just don't have the dogs for them. When they contact me and want the therapy dogs there we just don't have them. I'm hoping that our group of dogs increases."
Jim encourages anyone with a well trained dog to try to get them certified to be therapy dogs, since there is such a great need for them in our area.
Jim's retired, so this is his work now up to 5 days a week, strictly on a volunteer basis.
But it's a job he loves.
"I retired and went to the dogs! They are our family. We always tell people all our kids have 4 legs and a tail."
So far, that family has helped people of all ages over the past 20 years, from 3 to 100 years old.
For more information on therapy dogs or how to register your dog, click here.
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