St. John Ambulance therapy dog volunteer Ashley Desautels and her therapy dog Beau. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

St. John Ambulance therapy dog volunteer Ashley Desautels and her therapy dog Beau. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

St. John Ambulance providing ‘pawsitive’ support with virtual therapy dog event

With hospital, care home and school visits on hold, service finds another way to connect

Nothing relieves stress better than a visit from our furry best friends.

St. John Ambulance recognizes that and so on April 16, their therapy dogs will be providing virtual canine comfort to those in need for Stress Awareness Day.

RELATED: Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Pre-pandemic, the charity’s four-legged volunteers visited facilities in B.C. such as hospitals, care homes, schools, workplaces, and more on a weekly basis. While these visits are still on pause, the therapy dog program team has adapted to a one-day virtual model to provide the connection that so many people are craving and to raise funds for the program.

Molly, a golden retriever, is one of the many dogs ready with her Zoom account for the big day. She has been a therapy dog since November 2018 and specializes in visiting senior residences and workplaces such as law firms. Her handler, Shirley Earle, said it never gets old seeing the difference in mood from everyone that gets to meet Molly.

“Dogs give non-judgmental and unconditional love, and Molly demonstrates that wherever she goes. We miss our visits so much and we know all of the seniors we visited in the past miss their weekly comfort as well,” said Earle. “We know that nothing can replace the physical part of our visits, but I hope we can fill some of that void during this tough time with Molly’s virtual presence.”

In the 15-minute visits, participants can expect to hear about the dog and their volunteer work, learn about the importance of dogs when it comes to mental health, be able to ask questions or share their own stories, and maybe even watch the pup show off some talents and tricks.

According to a survey done by the Canadian Mental Health Association, 42 per cent of British Columbians said that their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic. Interactions with therapy dogs have been proven to help decrease stress levels, loneliness, and simply provide moments of undistracted joy.

RELATED: Working women report poor mental health, with stress higher among working moms: poll

Ryan Ward has seen that effect firsthand through his visits with his therapy dog Penelope, a mini goldendoodle. They have volunteered with St. John Ambulance for over two years and regularly visited the Windermere Care Centre and have supported various therapy dog community events. Whether it’s helping distract care home staff from a long day, providing companionship to seniors, or bringing smiles to a workplace, Ward said it’s incredible to watch the calming effect Penelope has on people.

“The pause of visits is a loss both ways, for us and them. We’re glad we can find ways to still be there even if only through a screen. Dogs have the ability to bring positivity to their surroundings, and Penelope loves to make people smile,” said Ward.

The virtual event will run on April 16th, with 15-minute time slots available between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Anyone can book a visit, whether it’s one individual, a workplace team, or alongside family or friends. To book a visit, make a $10 or $20 donation to the therapy dog program at https://supportsja.ca/stress-awareness-day. After making a donation, an email will be sent to choose a time slot.

RELATED: Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

Vernon local Ryan Lazar – who specializes in 2D background design and 3D animation – is ready to start his career after a tough yet rewarding two years of studies. (Contributed)
Okanagan College students get animated at graduation

‘The pandemic has resulted in more video consumption and the animation industry is so hot right now because of it’

The clock was removed during renovations to the visitor centre. Photo submitted
A new downtown clock for Princeton will take time

Mayor suggests community fundraising may be an option

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen offices in Penticton. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen showcases local government

The RDOS has put together a video as part of Local Government Awareness Week

The warm weather means time for a camping trip, or at least an excursion into nature. How much do you know about camps and camping-related facts? (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Are you ready to go camping?

How many camp and camping-related questions can you answer?

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’: Kelowna RCMP

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

A yellow-headed blackbird sits in the marsh at Swan Lake Monday, May 17. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Birds take flight across the Okanagan

Ospreys are spotted above the Rail Trail in Lake Country

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Nathalie Emmanuel, left, and Vin Diesel in a scene from “F9.” (Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures via AP)
The blockbuster movie is making a comeback this summer

Excitement in the industry is growing again for a return to a big-screen normal

Barriere RCMP nabbed two suspects who were allegedly breaking into cabins in McLure. (File photo)
Thieves nabbed by Barriere Mounties during McLure break-ins

Police Service Dog Kody instrumental in making the arrest

(File photo)
Repeated cougar sighting on Okanagan Rail Trail

Plenty of bear sightings around the valley too

Most Read