Lynne Robinson, a retired teacher, started PAWS for People in 2005. The nonprofit recruits and trains human-pet therapy teams and sends them on visits to anyone in the community who would benefit from interaction.
PAWS teams visit nursing homes, hospitals, group homes and even make visits to people’s homes. The therapeutic visits are individualized to people’s needs. Robinson says petting a warm, fuzzy, living thing can be soothing to people who are angry, stressed, suffering health issues—just about anyone.
“I think the dogs provide space for people to be who they are,” she says. “A trust is built and so many things can happen—people open up, they cry, they feel better. It’s a healing connection.” PAWS boasts 285 therapy teams that volunteered 28,114 hours of service in 2011. (351-5622, pawsforpeople.org) —Drew Ostroski