Therapy with a Wet Nose and Wagging Tail
When the owners of Sammi and Harley – a pair of Blue Healer mixes – moved to Africa to become missionaries, their cow dogs became missionaries as well. “Hired” by Vitality Unlimited for the PALS Program, they are among a crew of special dogs offering comfort and companionship to participants in VU’s residential alcohol and drug treatment programs. Research has shown pets provide excellent companionship therapy for those in recovery.
Where PALS is Putting on the Dog
Sammi and Harley provided pet therapy in the WINGS therapeutic community at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NCCC) in Carson City, where they were issued t-shirts with their own numbers, just like the other inmates. In Elko, Cheyenne and Buddy have become part of the household at Vitality Unlimited’s NextSTEPS residential treatment program for adults. Cassie and Sophie shared their love with teens in the ACTIONS adolescent residential treatment program. Other PALS are at work in several of Vitality Unlimited’s affordable housing projects.
It Takes Bones and Backbone to Be a PALS Pup
There’s more to being a PALS dog than unconditional love and a sympathetic ear. Sammi and Harley, for instance, underwent a full day of psychological examinations by the Nevada Humane Society veterinarian, including testing with a variety of dogs, children, cats and other stimuli. Both dogs received a glowing report – and their employment papers.
Dogs’ Tales with Happy Endings
“The pet therapy dogs have been a big part of my recovery,” said one WINGS participant. “They helped me prepare for when I get out of prison. I’ve learned responsibility and how to care about something else.” Sammi, prison pup extraordinaire, was inducted into Nevada’s 2005 “Animal Hall of Fame” at a tri-state event hosted by the Nevada Veterinary Medical Association.
For information on providing a gift to our PALS program, please call Dottye Dexter at 775-738-4158 or visit our Make a Donation page on this site.