Passengers boarding one of our sbX buses last week enjoyed a ride-along with a dozen therapy dogs from Rim of the World Comfort Pets. The dogs were all different breeds, sizes, and personalities but they all had one goal: to bring a smile to people’s faces.
After their initial surprise, riders had fun interacting with the dogs, talking with handlers and taking selfies to share with their friends. To their delight, they found that each dog had its own business card with its photo and story. When meeting a new person, the dog would touch a paw to the card to “autograph” and share it with them.
As passengers got off at their stops, we asked them how they had enjoyed their trip.
“Best ride ever,” grinned one young man. “I wish every bus ride was like this!”
Comfort Pets CEO Linda Smith told us that they get that reaction a lot. “Even the grumpiest people break into a smile when they see the dogs,” she laughed. “They’re irresistible.”
According to their website at www.comfortpets.org, a therapy dog’s primary job is to make positive physical contact with individuals in need of comfort.
The animals are often hugged, petted, brushed, talked to, or simply sit on a person’s lap. Many dogs perform small tricks for those they visit; or even play carefully structured games. The dogs and their handlers provide comfort and therapeutic kindness in medical, social service, and educational settings.
Some of the therapy dogs perform specific services for their handlers as well. Savannah, a French Brittany, has been trained to alert handler Bob Bernier to changes in his blood sugar levels.
“I’m diabetic,” he explained. “And Savannah has an incredible sense of smell. When she picks up a spike in my blood sugar, she alerts me by running in a circle.”
Bob chuckled. “As part of her training, I always reward her with a treat. One day she began running in circles, but when I checked my blood sugar it was normal. I thought she was just trying to get a treat. But 30 minutes later, my blood sugar spiked. She picked up on the change before the machine did!”
He leaned down to scratch her ears, “Savannah’s pretty amazing. She also loves riding on the back of my motorcycle every chance she gets. I’ve rigged a special harness for her. She definitely turns a lot of heads!”
Annie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is handler Kurt Kauffman’s service dog as well as a therapy dog. She has traveled all over the country with him since 2006, visiting schools and hospitals. The joyful little dog loves to cuddle and hitch a ride on Kurt’s scooter.
Several of the dogs and handlers also volunteer regularly at the Loma Linda VA Hospital, and were very excited to ride sbX for the first time.
“This is fantastic,” said handler Carolyn Richie, who was on board with her Labradoodle Elliot. “It’s really comfortable, the air conditioning is great, and the layout is perfect. There’s a lot of room under the seats for a dog to stretch out. I think I’m going to start leaving my car at the Palm and Kendall park and ride and take sbX to the VA. It’s takes about as long to ride sbX as it does to drive, and this way I don’t have to worry about trying to find a parking spot. It also gives us a chance to meet new people!”
At the end of each quarter or semester, teams from Comfort Pets visit college campuses at CSUSB, Chaffey College and University of Redlands. Their P.A.W.S. (Pet Away Worries & Stress) event is designed to help soothe students, faculty & staff during finals.
According to Carlos Carrio, CSUSB’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, “Studies have shown it reduces blood pressure, reduces stress and it reduces cortisol levels.”
“When you see your dog change a person’s life, it’s very rewarding,” said Linda Smith. “There’s a magic in these dogs that makes people laugh, relax and feel good. You can literally see the difference. It makes you a better person–happier and healthier. And it’s all free of charge!”
For more photos of the therapy dogs on sbX, visit our Flickr album.
Want to meet the therapy dogs in person? Their next public appearance is on August 1st from 9-11 a.m., where they will be participants at a Teachers’ Breakfast event hosted by the Office Depot on Hospitality Lane. Enjoy prizes, special sales and make some new furry friends!
You can learn more about Comfort Pets and how therapy dogs are making a difference in people’s lives, by visiting their website at www.comfort pets.org.
– Juno Kughler Carlson
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