On Stress Awareness Day – April 16 – St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs provide virtual dog comfort to those in need.
Prior to the pandemic, the charity’s four-legged volunteers visited BC facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, workplaces and more on a weekly basis. While those visits are still paused, the therapy dog program team has adapted to a one-day virtual model to create the connection so many people crave and to raise funds for the program.
Molly, a golden retriever, is one of the many dogs ready for the big day with her Zoom account. She has been a therapy dog since November 2018 and specializes in visiting senior residences and workplaces such as law firms. Her handler, Shirley Earle, said it never gets old when you see the difference in mood among everyone who meets Molly.
“Dogs give non judgmental and unconditional love, and Molly shows that where she goes. We miss our visits so much and we know that all of the seniors we have visited in the past also miss their weekly comforts, ”Earle said. “We know that nothing can replace the physical part of our visits, but I hope we can fill some of that void with Molly’s virtual presence at this difficult time.”
During the 15 minute visits, attendees can expect to learn about the dog and their volunteer work, learn about dogs’ mental health, ask questions or share their own stories, and maybe even watch the puppy show you some Talents and tricks.
According to a survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association, 42 percent of British Columbians said their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic started. It has been shown that interactions with therapy dogs help reduce stress and loneliness and simply provide moments of joy.
Ryan Ward saw this effect firsthand during his visits with his therapy dog Penelope, a mini Goldendoodle. You have volunteered at St. John Ambulance for more than two years, regularly attending the Windermere Care Center, and supporting various therapy dog community events. Whether it’s distracting nursing home staff from a long day, escorting seniors, or bringing a smile to the workplace, Ward said it was incredible to see Penelope’s calming effect on people.
“The break from visits is a loss for us and them in both directions. We’re glad we can find ways to stay there, if only through a screen. Dogs have the ability to make their surroundings positive, and Penelope loves making people smile, ”said Ward.
The virtual event will take place on April 16. 15-minute time slots are available between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Anyone can book a visit, whether it’s an individual, a workplace team, or family or friends. To book a visit, donate $ 10 or $ 20 to the therapy dog program at supportja.ca/stress-awareness-day. After a donation, an email will be sent to select a time slot. Email email@example.com for questions or more information.
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