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Posted: May 30, 2018

Therapeutic Paws of Canada ready to help community

The City of Cranbrook currently has the distinction of being one of only three communities in Western Canada with a Therapeutic Paws of Canada chapter.

Five members of the local chapter, along with their dogs, addressed City of Cranbrook council May 28, with the purpose of introducing themselves and making people aware they are here to help.

Spokespersons Mike LeClair and Monica Vording reported the group, established in August 2017, is ready to help out.

Members attend Joseph Creek and FW Green Memorial care homes to spend time with seniors, five elementary schools in the city and this past week attended East Kootenay Regional Hospital, which LeClair said “is huge for us. In a nutshell, we want to give back to the community in any way we can. We’re here for wherever we can be of use.”

Vording told council that as a Grade 4 teacher at Highlands Elementary School she has seen first hand the benefits of bringing the Therapeutic Paws dogs into the classroom with the Paws to Read program.

“My kids so look forward to Fridays (reading day) now,” she said.

Students at Mount Baker Secondary School are enjoying the Paws Room, she added. Some students have come up to her after visits to say “wow, we really look forward to you.”

The dogs help reduce stress and anxiety with students, she noted.

Therapeutic Paws of Canada describes itself as a non-profit organization of volunteers providing animal resources for human needs (physical, mental, educational, motivational, socialization) through regular visits to hospitals, residences, schools, etc.

The focal point of their efforts – the dogs – are evaluated on their temperament through 12 different tests to ensure they are completely comfortable being around people they don’t know.

“Our mandate is risk management. We have to make sure they are bomb proof,” LeClair told council, adding that when Therapeutic Paws members are out in the community, and are wearing their red shirts, it is okay to approach and pet the dogs.

He also outlined that Therapeutic Paws members do not have the same rights as people with service or assistance dogs, such as being able to take them anywhere they want.

Cranbrook and Gibsons are the only Therapeutic Paws chapters in B.C., with another in Grand Prairie, Alberta. More common in Eastern Canada, Therapeutic Paws is the second largest dog therapy organization in the country, behind St. John’s Ambulance.

“It’s a matter of having the people willing to commit as team leads. We have an awesome team,” LeClair said, adding another 10 members and dogs are expected to be joining the Cranbrook team.

Councillor Danielle Eaton praised the group for being available for community members in need and told council and the public gallery she has had a lifetime love of animals because she learned early on that being around them reduced her anxiety.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said.

Learn more about Therapeutic Paws of Canada

Contact/learn more about the Cranbrook chapter

Lead image: The Cranbrook team of Therapeutic Paws of Canada, co-led by Monica Vording (second from left, standing) and Mike Leclair (right, standing) stopped by the council meeting at City Hall Monday.  The team made a short presentation announcing their therapeutic services are available in Cranbrook in care facilities, schools and other venues where their services can be utilized by the public. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photo

– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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