Jasper, Arley residents help to provide animal-assisted therapy

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 7/4/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

Two Jasper area residents have recently graduated from the Hand in Paw animal-assisted therapy program.

Hand in Paw is a nonprofit based in Birmingham, with a mission to take trained animals to places such as hospitals and …

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Jasper, Arley residents help to provide animal-assisted therapy

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

Two Jasper area residents have recently graduated from the Hand in Paw animal-assisted therapy program.

Hand in Paw is a nonprofit based in Birmingham, with a mission to take trained animals to places such as hospitals and schools to spread love through the community.

Pam Herald of Jasper and her dog, Lucy, recently graduated from the program, and Gary Jones, of Arley, and his dog Winston graduated from the program a few months ago. They are two of only a few animal therapy teams to have graduated from Walker County.

Herald said she learned about the Hand in Paw program through Katie Adams’ parents. Adams, a Jasper City Schools student who was treated for cancer at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, received visits at the hospital from dogs registered with Hand in Paw.

The program is designed for dog owners and their handlers to visit various locations in the Birmingham area to provide animal-assisted therapy.

Other animals, such as rabbits and goats, have graduated from the program as well.

People also have the option of volunteering with Hand in Paw, without working with their own pet.

Herald said she thought her 3-year-old golden retriever, Lucy, would be a perfect fit for the program.

“She’s so sweet and good with people,” Herald said.

Jones has taken his 4-year-old golden retriever, Winston, on seven visits for Hand in Paw. Winston has visited Fair Haven assisted living facility and the Ronald McDonald House, among other locations in Jefferson County.

“When I take him out, kids just naturally go to him. He’s great with kids,” Jones said. “He’s just a good dog. I felt like he could bring some kind of happiness to somebody else.”

Dogs who graduate the Hand in Paw program are required to complete a six-week obedience class.

Herald said she works at Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper, and hopes the hospital will be named a Hand in Paw therapy site in the future. Currently, no facility in Walker County is registered as a Hand in Paw visiting location.

“I work at a hospital, so I see the need,” Herald said, adding that Walker Baptist is on the waiting list to be a visiting site for the program. “I would love to be able to serve in my community, too.”

Jones said the program does require dedication to properly train your pet for animal-assisted therapy. The time, he says, is well worth the journey.

“I would encourage people to do it,” he said. Herald added, “It was just a way for me to give something back to the community.”

For more information on volunteering with Hand in Paw, visit www.handinpaw.org. According to Herald, the program has nearly 200 volunteers in the Birmingham area that visit a number of facilities in central Alabama.