Pet therapy group expanding in Cayuga, Oswego Counties

Needed: more volunteer therapy dogs. You can see if your pet measures up, at upcoming evaluations by PAWS CNY

A volunteer group that provides pet therapy services in five Central NY counties is expanding, and looking for more volunteers in Cayuga and Oswego Counties.

Jessica Marabella, who heads up PAWS of CNY (PAWS stands for Pet-Assisted Wellness Services) says her group will do suitability evaluations on dogs and cats,. It's the first step in getting certified , which allows the animals and their owners to work in area hospitals, senior citizens' facilities, schools, and libraries on a regular basis. There are also 'one time' outreach opportunities, such as at Hancock Airport during busy fly times, or at area colleges and universities during high-stress exam times.

Pets must be 'friendly' toward strangers, adaptible and somewhat brave in unusual situations. That also goes for the handler, who makes sure the pet is comfortable. Animals must also be up to date on immunizations and get a veterinarian's general health/suitability assessment.

With us for this morning's interview, my dog 'Moose' who went through the certification process about a year ago. She and I went to 6 weeks of classes, where she 'learned' how to handle greeting people who also had dogs, staying calm under unusual and unexpected noises (like from crutches or walkers or wheelchairs) basic obedience commands like sit and stay, AND not taking treats (sometimes well-meaning seniors may offer medications, as we found out!)

After classes, we had an evaluation where Moose was 'tested' and then we 'apprenticed' with an experienced dog/volunteer team for three visits to a senior facility (This, even though we work with children, not older people)

EVALUATIONS for suitability are being done in Cayuga County, at Kehoskie's K9 Care, 6743 Swamp Rd, Auburn next Sunday March 25th from 12:30-2:30pm, and in Oswego County at Paws and Effect on Route 1 in Oswego on Saturday, April 14. Both are for dogs and cats, and BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. For information/To register:

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