Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Angel Paws brings smiles

By Patrick Lacombe

Journal reporter

Who has a thick white coat, four legs and can bring a smile to a sick child’s face? “Gilbert” the therapy dog, that’s who. 

 

Gilbert and his owner Sharon Douglas are members of an organization called Angel Paws. According to Douglas, Angel Paws’ mission is to help motivate people to heal physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually, fostering an improved sense of well-being from receiving Animal-Assisted Therapy.

Douglas and Gilbert visit McLane Children’s Scott & White hospital every week. Gilbert is a five-year-old Bichon Frise who recently celebrated his birthday on January 21 at the hospital. 

“The kids wore hats and blew party horns at the party and had a great time,” Douglas said as she lovingly stroked Gilbert’s fluffy coat. “The kids love him and it takes their minds off of their hospital stay. They all want to hold him. That’s his profession, a lap dog.”

During the interview at a local Belton area restaurant, young Dillyn Bouchard came to the table and asked to pet Gilbert. 

“Oh, Gilbert would like that very much” Sharon said as she explained what kind of dog Gilbert is and how he makes people who meet him smile. 

The duo also visits area nursing homes. Every Tuesday they participate in an Alzheimer’s group at a local nursing facility. 

“Pets can trigger happy memories of better times in the minds of an Alzheimer’s patient,” Douglas said.

 Their parent organization, Angel Paws, is a non-profit group of volunteers in Waco and Fort Worth. According to the organizations’ website, Angel Paws volunteers visit with people and organizations. and they attend a number of local events throughout the year. Members own and train their own dogs. 

Angel Paws teams consist of a handler and dog or other animal who has been trained to offer consistent, safe attention to those in their care. Angel Paws teams are registered with Pet Partners, formerly called Delta Society, the national nonprofit organization for Animal Assisted Activities/Therapy. Their animals have passed a rigorous Pet Partners test of obedience and fitness to serve, and the handlers have passed a thorough Pet Partners evaluation of effective communication and sustained cooperation with their animals.

To volunteer or find out more about Angel Paws, go to their website at www.angelpaws.info.com.