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Opportunity Knocks

From entrepreneur to therapy dog trainer, Jaime Van Wye answers the callZoom Room - Local Hero - April 2012

Opportunities come along every day. Some we recognize, some we don’t. Opportunities to do good may not come along often, but when one presents itself—as it did to Jaime Van Wye—you know you’ve got to make something of it.

Van Wye is the owner and creator of Zoom Room, an indoor canine agility and obedience facility in Los Angeles. She created this center after being frustrated by the lack of available agility classes.

“I thought it was ridiculous that there was no place offering this,” says Van Wye. “I had some open warehouse space, and within the first few months I was slammed with requests. I had no idea it was going to be this big.”

But once Zoom Room expanded across the U.S., Van Wye saw another opportunity—an opportunity to help.  She began training therapy dogs.

“I had a dog for therapy work for years that I would take to convalescent homes in Santa Monica, and I turned our advanced obedience class into a therapy class,” explains Van Wye.

Her great grandmother used to live in one of those convalescent homes, Van Wye would often bring her Dalmatian, Emma, along on visits.  Although she was a bit high strung—as most Dalmatians are—the people in the home really responded to her.

“I saw the change that this dog could make,” notes Van Wye. “There was this woman named Rose that lived there, and [the staff] would have a hard time getting her out of bed. But when Emma would show up, this little old lady would ask for her lipstick, grab the dog, and take her for a walk for about an hour.”

Van Wye continues to be amazed by the calming effect these dogs have on people.

“A lot of the people I see have Parkinson’s [disease],” explains Van Wye. “But as soon as you put a dog in front of them they stop shaking. So many of them had dogs when they were younger, and you can see that they really miss their dogs—I think this helps because they provide that bond and unconditional love.”

Van Wye is happy to see the changes her dogs make, and she is even happier to see others continue her work. Many people from her classes continue with training beyond basic obedience.

“A lot of them wanted to know how to get their dog to become a therapy dog,” says Van Wye. “So we show them the skills they need by combining our advanced skills courses and teaching [the dogs] to be around wheelchairs and crutches, and how to be reliable and controllable.”

While Van Wye admits her dog Clyde, a Komondor (Hungarian Sheepdog), is not much of an agility dog, she is proud that he is a fantastic certified therapy dog.

“He is very mellow, and with those dreadlocks he is quite the showstopper,” says Van Wye. “It is such a great line of work to get into because you can really see how much you’ve helped.”

Van Wye also makes sure that each Zoom Room franchise is involved with animal welfare by holding a fundraiser, adoption event, or giveaway at least once a month.

“We are so involved in the community,” she says. “The people that are interested in doing this are often people who have worked in the rescue community and have a load of experience with helping out.”

To learn how you can help, please visit ZoomRoomOnline.com.

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