City council went to the dogs on Monday night.
With canines in tow, volunteers from Therapeutic Paws of Canada (TPOC) appeared before local officials to tout the positive impacts and benefits their program has in places like schools and hospitals.
Mike LeClair and Monica Vording led the delegation for the organization, while a few more volunteers with their canine companions ranging from a Siberian Husky to Golden Retrievers sat in the gallery.
LeClair said the Cranbrook chapter of Therapeutic Paws of Canada is only the third in Western Canada and are set to celebrate their one-year anniversary in August.
“Basically what we do with our teams, is we want to give back to the community in any way, shape or form that we can,” LeClair said, “whether that’s going into schools, nursing homes, hospitals, that’s what we do to provide comfort through animal therapy.”
LeClair says there is a significant difference between TPOC and other therapy dogs.
“We are not a service dog or assistance dog organization, meaning service dogs are predominantly working dogs and there’s many hours and tons of money put into those dogs,” he said. “We aren’t those people. These are our regular pets. We don’t have the same rights as service dogs. We can’t go into restaurants, grocery stores, things like that, so we don’t have those same rights.”
While handlers usually discourage the public from petting ‘working’ dogs, TPOC volunteers dressed in red shirts with their dogs wearing red bibs are perfectly fine to approach, said LeClair.
Local volunteers are currently taking their dogs into two seniors care facilities and schools, and only just recently gained access to the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.
“The beautiful thing is there’s no age demographic, from small children right through to seniors,” said LeClair.
Vording, who is a Grade 4 teacher at Highlands Elementary School, noted the impact that the therapy dogs have with her students when they visit every Friday for the Paws to Read program.
“The dog basically comes in with the handler and the student will pick a book,” Vording said. “Usually it’s to encourage kids to read, give them the confidence for reluctant readers. It’s done wonders. My kids look so forward to Fridays now, they want to find the book that there going to read to the dog and sit there on the blanket with the dog and they just read. It’s amazing.”
If anyone wishes to get involved with the program or wishes to arrange to utilize the therapy dogs, contact LeClair at 250-417-1988 or email.