Helen Woodward Animal Center is looking for pets for the Pet Encounter Therapy Program –

RANCHO SANTA FE (KUSI) — Helen Woodward Animal Center is looking for pets for its pet encounter therapy program, which they say is essentially “cuddling therapy.”

The program brings the unconditional love and tactile benefits of animals to people in skilled nursing facilities, children’s shelters, hospitals, psychiatric units and many more.

The basis for this important therapy stems from studies showing that holding and petting an animal provides benefits such as relaxation, lower blood pressure, improved long and short term memory and sensory stimuli.

Due to the close and personal nature of therapy, farm animals are not immediate staples.

Dogs are natural for the job and the program also includes a number of rabbits, guinea pigs and even a few cats.

Potential PET volunteers should have a flexible schedule and are generally available Monday through Friday, late morning and/or early afternoon.

Potential PET therapy dogs are:

— At least 1 ½ to 2 years

— Neutral with other dogs (not shy, aggressive or overly friendly). We want them to focus on the clients and not on other therapy dogs that will be working in the same space.

— Neutral near small animals. Therapy rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. can work near your dog and will need to be ignored.

— Castrated or castrated.

— Not too sensitive to sound.

— Comfortable being touched anywhere.

— Able to refrain from licking and “kissing”.

– No voice when stressed or excited (i.e., no barking, no whining)

— Agrees with different genders, ages, ethnicities, etc.

— Especially happy to be around people and to interact with strangers.

For more information about Helen Woodward Animal Center pet encounter therapy, contact PET Manager Robin Cohen at (858) 756-4117 x322, or go online at www.animalcenter.org.

The potential volunteer would attend our center orientation, PET volunteer training, at least three visits to different facilities to observe other teams in action, and then we would formally test their dogs in the program.

Benjamin M. Yerger