Love On A Leash is proof positive that dogs are the best medicine on four legs. A wag of the tail and the nudge of a friendly nose can turn a frown into a smile and brighten up the darkest of days.
In the early 1980’s a group of pet therapy enthusiasts from San Diego founded Love On A Leash, where certified therapy dogs visits hospitals, homes and schools offering people-in-need of some T.L.C. (tender loving care) as only a pet can offer.
“What started as a local program with a handful of helpers now has more than 2,000 volunteers nationwide,” said Linda Roth of the San Diego North County chapter. “Here in Scripps Ranch we have about 280 members and we each have a dog or a cat and even a bunny that has been certified as a therapy animal.
“Not all dogs are suited to be therapy dogs so we take the owner and their dog to at least ten one-hour visits to see how they react in social situations before they can be certified as a therapy pet.
“A therapy dog is at first a service dog that is trained to help an individual that requires assistance in opening a door, or maybe their in a wheelchair; the service dog helps them do a variety of daily tasks that most people take for granted. For us at Love On A Leash, dogs are just love covered in fur; they’re comfort dogs.”
Roth and her pal Happy teamed up with Martha Willox and her dog Sedona along with Sharon Eastman and her pooch Puzzle to debut their unique program at a local elementary school to rave reviews.
The E.B. (Ellen Browning) Scripps Elementary School was among the first to embrace the Love On A Leash venue in Scripps Ranch.
“Our association with them began three years ago when I wanted to do an assembly with dogs to teach children about all the wonderful things animals do for us and to respect animals,” said Gayle Shinn, District Counselor for the San Diego Unified School District. “I met Linda and her dog Happy and thought it was a great idea to have the Love On A Leash dogs come to the assembly. The dogs had a very calming impact on our students as well as our staff. Things went so well that we made it an every other week event.
“The dogs are great motivators for students with and children that are very shy and reluctant readers,” said Liz Sloan the schools principle. We have the children read to the dogs and it brings them out of their shell and they love the dogs.
“We go into the classroom, put down our quilts and blankets the children sit down with the dogs and love on ‘em, brush them, read a story to them, some will just talk to the dogs with amazing results,” said Roth. “The nurse brought in one little girl who couldn’t stop crying, she sat down with Happy, put her arms around him, stopped crying and talked to him for 15 minutes.”
“We also use the dogs to comfort students that are dealing with a traumatic event in their life such as the death of a family member, said Slone. “And for our students who have A.D.H.D. (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) we put them with a dog it has a calming effect and that helps them have a great rest of their day.”
The success stories a vast and wide-ranging depending on the child’s specific needs. The breed of the animal is irrelevant, the love a dog shares is like a pair of stretch pants; one size fits all.
To find out if your dog, cat or rabbit has one it takes to become a therapy, Love On A Leash participant contact www.loveonaleash.org