You’ve experienced it. That moment when a pet comes over to you, sensing you need comfort or support, and makes a difficult time better. You know how much of a difference that can make for you, and now you can help others to know that impact, too.
That’s what we do at Pets on Wheels; we make friendly therapy pet visits that share our pets’ love to bring comfort, encouragement and help lick stress and loneliness. Schools get visits, often to special education classrooms to help learning goals. So do nursing homes, libraries, hospitals, Veterans facilities, local businesses & colleges – we visit more than 400 facilities and events in total each year. People with dementia laugh, veterans with PTSD connect, those struggling with illness feel better, and students read when our teams visit.
Normally, we make visits in person – more than 9400 visits in 2019 around the state. Our volunteers spent more than 14,000 hours visiting last year. There’s never a cost to the individual people we visit; often we become substitute family for our seniors, and mentors for our students. Always, our pets become their friends, and the people we visit become our pets’ biggest fans.
There are a lot of reasons why therapy pet visits are important, especially for helping people in distress, but this story from one of our volunteers really shows it best:
“Forest and I were volunteering at our regular assignment, a local school for kids with special needs where we visit several times a month. This visit was with the kids we have been visiting with since last school year. Three of them are wheelchair dependent, non-verbal and use electronic communication devices to communicate. One, T, really likes to pet Forest on his head.
On this day, T was having a bad day, crying and having muscle spasms in his arms. I took Forest over to him quietly; T’s aide was with him and explained it was too early for him to get his medication. Within 5 minutes of Forest and I gently touching him, his muscles relaxed and his face went from frowning and crying to almost smiling. All of us in the library were so amazed that afterwards all of the adults in the room looks around and said, did that just happen?
T didn’t cry or stretch out his arms the rest of the time we were visiting. Forest helped him feel better and relax. This was one of the best visits we’ve ever had.” ~ Deb Lieberman, PoW Volunteer
In 2020, our ability to go on site came to a halt due to COVID-19. While we’re waiting to see our friends in person again, we haven’t been idle. We’ve shifted to Virtual Visits, and have been supporting our partners, including healthcare workers, with Zoom visits from our teams. And we’ve moved Paws to Read, our program that helps students with reading skills and literacy, online too. It’s a lot we didn’t budget for, but it’s important. So important that local and national media have featured our teams and programs in stories this year.
You can help us recruit, train and support more therapy teams, and continue to make virtual and in person visits. Each of our teams of pets and their people undergo a background check and an in-person screening for temperament and suitability. We require annual veterinary health certificates and rescreen for suitability every 2 years, and all of our teams are covered by liability and accident insurance. Local coordinators match teams with needs, and teams commit to spend at least one hour a month visiting, although most visit an hour a week or more. We keep records of every visit and have formal partnership agreements with each of our facilities.
All of the screening, training, administration, insurance and record keeping costs time and money, and we receive $0 from any federal, state or local government. It is only through the support of our volunteers and people like you that we can make our mission happen. We hope that you’ll join us to help our pets help more people.