The Healing Power of Pet Assisted Therapy

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Every Wednesday, volunteers from our Pet Assisted Therapy Program visit retirement homes and hospice care facilities throughout Ojai with their pets. They spend time with the residents giving them the opportunity to enjoy one-on-one time with the animals. At some facilities the residents enjoy playing catch with the dogs out in the courtyard, who fetch and bring the ball back and drop them in awaiting laps.

The Humane Society of Ventura County’s Pet Assisted Therapy Program was started in 1982, by Shelter Director Jolene Hoffman when she was a volunteer. Jolene saw a television show on the benefits of pet assisted therapy and wanted to start the program in Ojai. The Pet Therapy program was a success and has been going strong ever since.

The Pet Assisted Therapy Program is now overseen by volunteer Judy Ross who has been involved with the program for the past two decades. Judy’s dedication to the residents is an inspiration to us all. She usually brings her two friendly Chihuahuas and is more than happy to hold her dogs for the residents so they can say ‘hello’. Judy says, “Seeing the joy shown by the residents when they see the dogs and actually start to talk to them is my favorite part of Pet Assisted Therapy. You need to experience it to realize how much it means to the patients.”

Laura Gruenther has been doing pet assisted therapy for 5 years with her two Australian Kelpies, Blaze and Tasha. Laura had always wanted to do pet assisted therapy but hadn’t had the time until she moved to Ojai and found our program. Laura says that, “Seeing my dogs engaging with the residents and making people so happy is one of my favorite parts.” Laura recalls a time when one of the residents requested to see them on a day they weren’t regularly scheduled. Laura was more than happy to oblige and would stop by the facility with her dogs whenever she could.

As more people become aware of the benefits of pet assisted therapy we are excited to announce plans to expand the program to other cities in Ventura County. If you are interested in becoming a pet assisted therapy volunteer please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Volden at volunteer@hsvc.org or call 805-646- 6505 xt. 110 to learn how you can get involved!

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402 Bryant Street in Ojai

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