Pet Connections, a division of Ontario ARC, is thrilled to announce the expansion of its community volunteer opportunities to include Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) volunteer certification and membership.
The expansion will allow Pet Connections to bring the joys of working with therapy dogs to more people in the community than ever before. Now, volunteers will have access to therapy dog certification and liability coverage, giving certified dog and handler teams even more opportunities to volunteer in our community. Volunteers will also benefit from new educational and training opportunities provided by Pet Connections.
“Through our expansion, Pet Connections will be able to grow its reach into the community to provide quality Animal Assisted Interventions,” said Gail Furst, Animal Assisted Activity and Therapy Trainer at Ontario ARC.
Pet Connections teams currently participate in comfort visits at group homes, regional hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, businesses, and civic organizations, as well as being an important part of reading programs at our Active Academy sites. Some of the 17 human/ canine teams are also trained to be co-therapists during occupational therapy sessions.
Pet Connections volunteer Pat Einhouse and her therapy dog Betsy started volunteering three years ago after Pat completed cancer treatments. “Pet Connections gives me a chance to give back to others,” says Pat, “and in return, I have received smiles and acts of kindness that mean the world to me.”
The new AAI certification program will help Pet Connections educate more people on the different types of animal-assisted intervention and the benefits of engaging with therapy dogs.
“When someone squeezes my hand and thanks me for visiting—because we made them smile or reminded them of a dog that they once had—I know my visit was meaningful,” says Pat.
All breeds of dogs with the right personality, that meet eligibility requirements, and graduate from the program, can become Pet Connections Certified. Canine volunteers currently range in size from a Shih Tzu to a mastiff mix and everything in between.