PAWs For People is an organization that brings pets and people together for comfort, interaction, stimulation and joy in a safe and relaxing atmosphere.
Contact Koralee Samaroden at 780-743-2000 and be sure to Like Paws for People Facebook Page.
History of Therapy Pets in Fort McMurray
Pet therapy began in Fort McMurray in 1989 when two residents and their dogs began visiting seniors in Auraubasca House and the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre. The group grew to 10 members and continued until 1995 when it was dissolved for a short time.
In 1999, a new chapter in pet therapy began. Joining with the Northern Alberta Pet Therapy Association the new group went through a formal training program.
In 2002, the need for a local training program was recognized as more and more people and pets wanted to become involved in pet therapy and more facilities were interested in having visitors. Pets and Wellness in Fort McMurray (PAWS FM) was the result. The first course was held in 2002.
In 2010, the program underwent a small transformation, including a new logo and a modified name: PAWs for People.
What Is Pet Therapy?
All pet owners know how much enjoyment they get from their pets. There is the unconditional devotion they give us, the responsibility we feel when we care for them or any number of things we like about owning pets. There are even proven physiological benefits from pet ownership.
Pet therapy gives owners an opportunity to share those benefits with people who cannot have pets due to a variety of reasons. There are three pet therapy activities: pet visitation, animal assisted activities and animal assisted therapy. At present, pet visitation is the only activity carried out in Fort McMurray.
Pet visitation consists of unstructured visits in a variety of locations. In Fort McMurray Paws for People make regular visits to the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, Alberta Health Services’ Bridges Program, Rotary House, as well as other facilities in the region. Paws for People are exploring other visitation opportunities. Pet visitation gives people an opportunity to interact with a companion.
Pets Who Visit
Pets included in the program so far, are dogs and cats that are at least 12 months of age and have been screened by a qualified trainer.
A volunteer may only visit with his/her pet that is a certified PAWs team member. You may have more than one pet certified but you may only visit with one pet at a time. Other volunteers may visit with your pet only if they have participated in the pet’s training and certification.
Who Would Benefit from Pet Visits?
- People who enjoy the company of animals
- The pets
- The handler/person brining the pet
- People who would like social interaction
- The facility staff
- Family of those being visited
- Previous pet owners
Benefits of Therapy Pets
- Physiological – petting an animal can actually lower blood pressure
- Rehabilitation motivation – a client may be motivated to reach out and touch an animal
- Emotional – pets offer unconditional, non-judgmental love and affection
- Mental stimulation – clients may respond to a pet and begin to interact with the pet and/or other people
- Cognitive skills, such as memory can be exercised
- Recreation, socialization, entertainment – people have fun and relax around pets
- Spiritual – an animal can provide a source for a feeling of oneness with life creation
- Educational stimulation – an animal can provide a source for increasing one’s own knowledge, resulting in increased self-respect
- Other – the clients benefit from the visit as do the team members, staff of the facility, family and friends who share the experience