Meet Local Therapy Dog Dude - MetroFamily Magazine
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Meet Local Therapy Dog Dude

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Now entering her 26th year of private practice as a psychologist, Dr. Lisa Marotta knows a lot about therapy. And one thing she’s learned over the years is that a pet can be an integral part to getting people to open up.

“Dude instantly cuts the tension in the room,” she said of the two-and-a-half-year-old Portugese Water Dog she uses for her Animal Assisted Therapy Sessions. “Even when kids are really stressed out, they’re just instantly soothed and when parents are upset, it’s calming for them, too.”

Marotta specializes in women, children and families. Her patients have the choice to have Dude be part of their therapy session or not, although most people opt to have him there. Before Dude, Marotta practiced seven years with Suki, another Portugese Water Dog. She explained the long history of therapists using dogs to help soothe patients and make them more comfortable, citing that even the famous founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud used a dog in his practice.

“Dogs teach us a lot of things,” she said. “I’ve always thought that. More than responsibility, they teach us about unconditional love and caring, companionship, forgiveness and mindfulness. They’re very social and they socialize with the people they’re with. I think there’s something about having animals around that makes us more human.”

Beyond using pets to make her patients comfortable, Marotta just plain loves dogs. Her passions for dogs and helping people combined to prompt her latest project, a book that will be released this fall that’s a culmination of her clinical experience in assisting children with grief. “Suki & Sam” is targeted to elementary-aged readers and explores the relationship between a girl and her dog. She frequently uses children’s books to help her patients and wanted to write one of her own to help kids with grief.

“The hope is that the book will help them (children) grieve well,” Marotta said. “If they’re lucky, their first experience with grief is losing a pet. If that is done in a way that’s respectful to time and feelings and lets them express and work through, I find those children much less overwhelmed with subsequent deaths or losses. It’s a great way to get in there and do some preventative work.”

“Suki & Sam” will be released later this fall. To keep up with Marotta’s work and learn more about her animal assisted therapy, visit


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