Volunteering with my dog is the best unpaid job I ever had.
How it all started:
Rosie, my lab, & I began volunteering as a registered pet therapy team in 2002. After joining Paws4Love & with three dogs (at different times), I participated in every P4L program. We visited schools, libraries, the courts & with my latest, Dixie, became a member of the Crisis Response team. We logged nearly 4,000 hours during 16 years. I became an evaluator to recruit new teams & my singing wienie dog, Gus, helped garner interest in pet therapy during community events. Over the years we met teams who only volunteered in a hospital, were independent or were beginning without a plan. Volunteers are a special group & I thought bringing "dog people" volunteers together might create relationships & increase participation where therapy was needed. Parades & Reno Rodeo provided venues that were all inclusive. LifeCare Center "Dog Shows" provided an opportunity to evaluate dog teams in a unique nursing home setting. Meeting "dog people" from six organizations that represented training, pet therapy and service dogs in training created a group with unique skills & interests that were joined with the mission of helping people with our dogs. Before leaving the Reno area for the 2017 winter, I resigned from Paws4Love & ATD and devoted my time to researching therapy organizations in other areas of the country gleaning information that could help with expanding pet therapy services in the Northern NV area. Bright&Beautiful Therapy Dogs on the East Coast & LoveOnALeash Pet Therapy out West helped provide a new perspective. The key was communication by networking training facilities, established pet therapy & service organizations & individuals. With the encouragement of representatives from each of those groups & support from the community at large, Reno-Sparks Pet Therapy was created. In a very short period of time, that network grew. New relationships were developed, guidance for new & existing pet therapy programs was given and a little at a time, pet therapy services are growing. It was proof we're on the right track and it was time our mission was shared.