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Therapy dogs share their love

April 8th, 2002, 10:49 AM
Therapy dogs share their love

Peterborough Examiner

The name may be different, but at least the service hasn't gone to the dogs.

East Central Therapy Dogs, formerly funded through St. John Ambulance, became independent last month, after co-ordinators wanted to expand the program's services to outlying areas.

For 10 years, about 50 dog therapy volunteers have shared their temperament-tested pets with hundreds of area senior citizens, who are often cut-off from the warmth and companionship of animals, said program co-ordinator Dianne McMillan.

But given that St. John only serves the Peterborough area, seniors in Bancroft, Apsley, Minden and Haliburton were unable to pet the puppies that regularly tour each week.

As a result, members decided to make some changes that kept priorities in mind.

"We operate on a very low budget," McMillan said, referring to the now non-profit organization.

Despite the new financial burdens, there has been no change in service that the program provides to hundreds of elderly in the community, she said.

When moving into retirement communities or nursing homes, many senior citizens are forced to give up their pets, making the pooch therapy a welcome break in the week.

"They really look forward to the dogs," McMillan said, whose four dogs have also had illustrious careers in providing therapy. "I love my dogs and when you share them with other people, you give the love."

Last night, several volunteers appeared for the regular dog visit at Applewood Manor, where a circle of women took turns patting and cooing over three dogs, who appeared to lap up the love.

Resting her hand on a well-behaved coonhound named Casey, Applewood resident Ola Morrison said she can always be found in the common room when the dogs come out to visit.

"I come every time," she said. "They seem to love the attention more than the children."

Copyright 2002 Peterborough Examiner