Molly is a 5-year-old golden retriever with a busy schedule.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she goes to a senior’s village, then an elementary school in Williams Lake. On Wednesdays, she goes to the library.
Molly is a therapy dog for St. John Ambulance.
Her owner Karen Wright has been a dog handler for two years and says, “I really enjoy visiting with seniors and kids because they get so much out of (Molly).”
Wright belonged to a Pets and Friends group when she lived in Surrey, which she attended with her labrador.
She said the dog therapy program is something she’d always wanted to get involved in.
Now that she’s retired, she’s free to pursue her passion with Molly.
She’s so passionate, in fact, that she’s taken it upon herself to set up a booth at the South Cariboo Summer Festival on Saturday, Aug. 11.
There, she will be available to educate people about the dog therapy program and recruit potential participants.
Ashten Black, Wright’s contact within St. John Ambulance, has been helping get her what she needs for the booth.
“She’s an amazing volunteer,” says Black.
Traditionally, Black says they haven’t had many branches in communities heading north.
“Recently, we’ve had quite a number of people express interest in the Cariboo region, from 100 Mile House as well into Quesnel.”
She added that two volunteers have stepped forward in Prince George to help revitalize its program as well.
“It’s truly impressive how many volunteers it takes to keep our program operating, and they do such a wonderful job.”
Therapy dogs are different from service dogs, says Black.
“We kind of make the joke that service animals need to provide and perform a variety of very specific skills and tasks, whereas our dogs do nothing but accept love.”
Therapy dogs can be helpful in bringing a “moment of joy” to care facilities, like hospitals and retirement homes, anywhere children are learning, as well as high-stress workplaces like emergency first response units, according to Black.
The therapy dog program is free.
“Our therapy is to the greater general public and it’s always a volunteer program, so we never evaluate for any other purpose other than to give back to the community,” says Black.
Dog owners interested in signing their pets up for the program should know that St. John Ambulance doesn’t train its therapy dogs.
Instead, Black says they simply evaluate the dog’s temperament, behaviour and appropriateness for the program.
Dogs who “enjoy being pets,” can be in large groups, aren’t bothered by affection, enjoy the interaction and who are generally excited to see people but don’t jump up and can easily be calmed, she said, are ideal.
For general inquiries or to sign up for the program, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Karen Wright at her booth on Aug. 11.