Red Cross of West Michigan Adds Therapy Dog to Team

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ST. JOSEPH, Mich., October 9, 2013 – The American Red Cross of West Michigan is adding a unique member to its team. Merlin, a five-year-old Borzoi hound, will serve as a therapy dog for the newly formed K9 Action Team. He and his owner, Susan Bandsma, will be the first Red Cross K9 Action Team in the state of Michigan.


“My husband and I adopted Merlin in 2011,” said Bandsma, who started working with the Red Cross in St. Joseph five years ago. “I thought that Merlin had the perfect temperament for being a therapy dog so we went through the program and he was certified.”


Dogs in the Red Cross K9 Action Team provide comfort therapy for disaster victims and volunteers, as well as to the military and their families. During pet therapy, people are invited to pet, brush, play games, or simply sit with the dogs in order to provide therapeutic contact. The program was started in 2009 with the first team serving at the Red Cross chapter in Trumbull County, Ohio.


Bandsma says she first had the idea to volunteer Merlin for the Red Cross when she heard about pet therapy programs in hospitals. From there, she researched the necessary training for Merlin to become a K9 Action Team member with the Red Cross and had him certified.


In addition to visiting hospital and hospice residents, Merlin will also be able to take part in parades, health fairs, military homecomings, pet CPR classes and other events put on by the Red Cross. Merlin will join Bandsma at the Red Cross of Berrien County chapter based in St. Joseph, Michigan.


For more information about the K9 Action Team of the Red Cross, visit or follow the team on facebook.


About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.