Love on a Leash Therapy Dogs Aiding Placer County
06/30/2015 11:28AM ● Published by Morgan Cásarez
Volunteer Jill Wenig with Bailey - Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
Following his mother’s death in 2011, Jon Jarman adopted an aging dog named Duke from a local shelter to ease the pain of his loss. Mrs. Jarman had spent her final days in a nursing home—an environment her son describes as cold, sterile and devoid of enriching activities. “It was an awful experience for her,” he recalls. “Because of her memory, I wanted to give some of myself [and] help people in care facilities to smile for just a little while.”
With Duke in tow, Jarman began visiting area senior care facilities and in time, attained certification from Love on a Leash (LOAL), the Foundation for Pet Provided Therapy. Based in Southern California, the nonprofit was founded in 1984 by Liz Palika, an award-winning author and canine obedience instructor who introduced the concept of pet therapy to San Diego County residents in the early ’80s.
Today, the organization has more than 1,900 certified members serving chapters throughout the U.S. In order to start a chapter of his own, Jarman needed just one additional member to join the cause. In January 2013, after more than a year spent searching for support, Gold Country Love on a Leash (GCLOAL) was born. Since that time, the group has grown to include over 40 volunteers serving nearly a dozen facilities throughout Placer County.
Colleen Magda is the life enrichment director at Auburn’s Sierra Ridge Memory Care and says she’s profoundly grateful for GCLOAL’s weekly visits. “Our residents recognize the dogs and the owners as friends,” she explains. Not only do the dogs bring back memories of past pets, [but] the owners take time to visit and reminisce with our residents and allow their animals to be petted and spoiled, which is very beneficial since the interaction helps residents to calm down and enjoy that moment. Since our residents reside in the community full-time, it brings them a feeling of normalcy.”
Following months of training and supervised visits, Robert Pierce and his dog Aaleayha joined GCLOAL in February. The past five months, he says, have been transformative for both dog and owner. “I find that I am anxiously anticipating my next visit to these facilities because of the joy we bring,” Pierce shares. “As a pet therapy team, Aaleahya and I have put smiles on so many faces where hope seems lost, and they may or may not have family and friends visit them. I would ask those with pets to consider joining the organization and be a part of something wonderful.”
In addition to their work with local assisted living and senior care facilities, Jarman’s team, which includes his spouse David, also provides therapy pets to boost confidence in children learning to read at the Placer County Library.
“As with any volunteer group, it can get challenging juggling the operational side of the chapter with the visitation side,” David, GCLOAL’s treasurer, says. “I think the best our community can do for us is to encourage teens and young adults to become involved as pet-therapy teams if possible. Being unplugged and spending an hour a week with your pet in a warm and caring environment can do wonders.”
Visit goldcountryloveonaleash.org for more information.