Jo-Ann Johnston with her papillon

Jo-Ann Johnston with her papillon

Therapy dog program needs volunteers

Volunteers and their dogs visit care homes throughout the North Okanagan, through the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program

Studies have shown that stroking and touching a dog have helped to lower blood pressure, calm the mentally challenged and refresh the minds of the confused.

“Unlike even the best-intentioned humans, therapy dogs are completely accepting of people to whom they are introduced,” said Jo-Ann Johnston, facilitator of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program in Vernon. “They don’t evaluate a person’s  looks,  nor what they might say. They offer unconditional affection that is beneficial for a person’s wellbeing.”

Through the program, volunteers and their dogs visit, on a regular basis, seniors at various establishments throughout the North Okanagan.

Any dog of sound temperament, is older than two years old, has current rabies and vaccination shots and  passes a St. John Ambulance  Therapy  Dog evaluation can become a therapy dog. An evaluator will test the dog’s reaction to people and other dogs in a variety of simulated conditions that may be found in the facilities that are visited — it is not an obedience test.

“We want to know who is the boss, the owner or the dog — said Johnson.

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and willing to devote a couple of hours every two weeks.

For more information, please call  Johnston at 250-542-6369 or the St. John Ambulance Hall at 250-545-4200.