People Animals Love

Here’s something worthwhile to do if you have a calm Zen-ish dog like mine–put her to work. A Washington-based organization called PAL (People Animals Love) certifies dogs and owners to become pet therapy teams. After certification, you and your pup go on visits to nursing homes, schools, hospitals and hospices. At schools, kids learn the proper way to approach, play with and care for a dog; at hospitals, the dogs go room to room visiting patients.

The first step is attending an orientation. At the one I attended, there were about 20 or so dogs and their people. The directors judge if your dog is hostile towards other dogs or people, if they bark incessantly and how they handle stressful situations, like loud noises or aggressive kids. Then the two of you must make two visits to facilities so the directors can see the dog “in action.” Sofi and I went to our first visit this week, to the Washington Home hospice in DC. We and four other dogs made the rounds, and truly, the patients were overjoyed to see them. If you’re seeking some warm and fuzzy feelings, this is definitely the way to go. Sofi got the hang of it pretty quick: go to bed, sit by patient, get head scratched. My job should be so stressful.

It took a toll on Sofi though. When we got home, she climbed up the stairs like she had just spent 12 hours laying railroad track, and I thought, “ha. Not that much fun, is it, this working schtick?” But really, I think she likes having a job to do. I like that we’re doing something worthwhile. It’s a good deal for both of us. But for Sofi, the very best part is that when she gets certified, she gets to wear a blue and green “cape” on visits, replete with badges and I.D. bling. She’s pretty stoked about that. She’s a girl, after all. It’s all about the outfit.

You can contact PAL at

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