sbX riders in San Bernardino and Loma Linda were accompanied by some uncommon, but pleasant fellow passengers last week – well-behaved comfort dogs who just wanted to brighten up someone’s day. And they did, for passengers and drivers alike!
A dozen adorable comfort dogs of all sizes, along with their handlers, met at the sbX Park & Ride on Palm and Kendall in north San Bernardino to explore the public transit environment. The ride took them to the south end of the sbX Green Line at the VA hospital to help the volunteer dogs become familiar with different scenarios that they may encounter in their work.
Rim of the World Comfort Pets, based out of San Bernardino County, is an organization that aims to promote health and improve the quality of life for individuals through animal-human interactions, animal-assisted activities, and therapy. Certified therapy animals work to “help heal individuals, elevate the professional standards in the therapy animal field, and promote the general cause of volunteerism,” according to the organization’s website.
“None of us in this group have been on the bus before. It has been about four years since we’ve been on Omnitrans. This is new to us, and we’re really excited and thankful that Omnitrans has allowed us to do this.” said Catherine Walker, a volunteer with the group who coordinated the training. “Those already certified to do work at the VA hospital currently park at the Park & Ride lot on Redlands Blvd. and ride sbX, so this is great practice for that.”
To become a certified comfort animal, dogs go through a training process in which they are familiarized with all environments where they may practice their work, including elevators, around statues, and of course, on buses. This exercise helped put the dogs at ease in large moving vehicles and around new people.
“This is great training because the environments that we go into have people on crutches, or wheelchairs, or making noises, so this teaches the dogs to not be scared by that because it’s not something that they may otherwise be exposed to every day,” explains Philip G. who was accompanied by his one-year-old labradoodle, Beau. Beau has already been certified, but still joins trainings – just for fun!
The dogs and their handlers can be seen visiting veterans at local hospitals, in nursing homes for the elderly, and in elementary school classrooms throughout San Bernardino County, where they help children hone their reading skills by reading to a dog. This eases the pressure of reading to a teacher or a parent.
“Kids read more freely,” explains Catherine. “They’re more interested when reading to a dog versus an adult who may interject and correct their reading. From the kids’ programs, to working with the men and women who serve our country, there is a wide range of people that we interact with.”
For Beatrice’s owner, Deborah B., volunteering with Rim of the World Comfort Pets is a way of giving back after having moved to Rancho Cucamonga from New Hampshire. When her daughter was sick in the hospital, she recalls comfort dogs coming to visit and noticeably enhancing her child’s mood and quality of life during a taxing time.
“Our daughter would light up when the dogs came to visit,” says Deborah. “Ever since then, we’ve wanted to get involved. Beatrice has the right energy for this type of work, and we knew she was the right fit to help make a positive impact on sick children. We’re looking forward to going out and working with kids once Beatrice is certified.”
“The best part has been seeing Beau mature and be able to participate,” says Philip G. “We go to a lot of nursing homes where the elderly look forward to holding the dogs as well as to the VA where the vets really appreciate the dogs. To watch the people light up when we visit is pretty special.”