Back at Visits after the Pandemic

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It has been a year now since Pet Therapy visits were once again permitted in our local long-term care facilities, and “Paws & Hearts” has continually been adding Canine Ambassadors to its ever-growing roster of volunteer teams.

Richard Waxman, Executive Director, “Paws & Hearts Animal Assisted Therapy and Terry

Each morning, a different team—made up of one handler and one canine—visits the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Desert Regional, while teams throughout the valley visit such facilities as Rancho Mirage Healthcare and the Atria Care Centers. Prior to the pandemic, we had 45 teams making regular visits. We are currently rebuilding our group and now have 25 teams making weekly visits.

Abril and Oliver»

We are always looking for great pups who would like a job making people feel better! If you are a full-time resident and have the best pup in town that is a minimum of one year old, spayed or neutered, and incredibly friendly with total strangers, this could be the perfect volunteer opportunity for the two of you. After a temperament test and some training, you and your therapy-dog- in-training would visit a long-term care facility together each week.

Ann and Maggie»

The best way to describe the joy that can be found in these interactions is with a story I heard while training a new volunteer at the Cancer Center.

We came across a woman in the waiting room, and she immediately recognized the volunteer shirts. She told me that a few years ago her husband had been a patient at the Lucy Curci Cancer Center, and he so looked forward to seeing the different therapy dogs every day when he went in for his radiation treatments. She explained that the dogs were important to him, because where they lived they couldn’t have any pets. At this point, she pulled out her phone and scrolled through until she came to pictures of her late husband with the dogs. She remembered the names of the dogs and even the days they visited. What an impact our Canine Ambassadors made on her husband!

Christopher and Chloe at the Lucy Curci Cancer Center»

How I kept from crying right then and there is anyone’s guess. I share this story with you all to help you understand the immeasurable comfort your visiting dog can bring to a patient. If you, the human at the end of the leash, is a very good listener and will let your dog do all the work, we’d love to hear from you!

All the information on becoming a volunteer can be found on our website, www. pawsandhearts.org. There are two training videos we ask you to watch and then give a call prior to submitting a volunteer application for our first interview.

Because of the recent passings of Valerie Zugates and Drew Marefos, there will be no Dog Walk/Fundraiser this year. We are feeling their loss keenly, as we realize we are not prepared for the tremendous amount of work it would take to put this event together without their help. We will, however, be holding our Fall Online Fundraiser once again, and we ask our donors to go to our website, www.pawandhearts.org, click on Donations, and make donations via PayPal.

Please call us at (760) 836-1406 with any questions regarding becoming a volunteer. Our office is located in the Berger Foundation Building, 42-600 Cook Street, Suite 138, Palm Desert, CA 92211.

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