September 24, go out and walk your pet
On Saturday, September 24, thousands of pets will walk their humans on a special national day as dog owners in cities across the country raise awareness and funds to help nonprofit pet partners.
Pet Partners is based in Washington State and has affiliate offices in many cities across the United States that bring trained pets to visit humans in recovery, including those with intellectual disabilities and seniors with Alzheimer’s disease.
Pet Partners is the national leader in animal-assisted therapy, activities, educational visits, and visits involving students, veterans with PTSD, people who have experienced crisis events, and those nearing the end of life. Therapy animals include nine types of creatures, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas, and alpacas.
Honored this year is the late Caroline Marr, a Dallas resident who has tirelessly given to the organization and pet therapy programs in the Dallas area. She passed away in 2021 after last year’s rally.
Five years in the making
The idea for the National Pet Walk came from Pet Partners’ director of development, Traci Pryor, over five years ago. “There are many ways in which therapy animals can help humans,” says Elizabeth Van Avery, a spokeswoman for the Washington state office. “The Walk With Me therapy program is a simple concept, and this movement in general is good for us. We need to do exercise to improve mental and physical health.” The World’s Largest Pet Walk is a way to get this message across to the nation, while raising money to bring more pets to people.
The first National Pet Walk took place in 2014, Pet Partners now has employees across the country, from Tucson, Arizona to Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah; There are two employees in Southern California near Los Angeles and San Diego and more work in South Carolina, South Central Virginia, Richmond and Winchester. “Our program is all over the country,” Elizabeth explains. “There are pet partner teams all over the country and interested people can be trained to become pet partners with their pets.”
Elizabeth points out, “The most important thing is a therapy animal. You can train a dog to do anything, but we want animals that love people, and are naturally reactive.”
She explains that the human end of the leash is just as important. “Our human partner needs to make sure the animal enjoys the experience. And of course, they provide transportation—dogs can’t drive themselves to appointments—yet.”
An educational course that teaches pet owners about being a healer is required as well as a health check from the vet for their pets. The final step is to conduct a screening interview for both the pet and the handler. They both meet people they have never met before, in a place they have never been, and this includes seeing how they react to unexpected noises, to safely make sure that this unfamiliar environment and meeting strangers is what the animals really enjoy and want them to do. Upon completion of their registration, the partners receive credentials and liability insurance.
Partners get to choose where they visit. “It is relatively common for our pet partners in health care facilities and living facilities for seniors.” Visits are scheduled monthly or bi-monthly, the only limitation being that the partners are in a one-to-one relationship: one handler and one animal. Visits do not exceed two hours a day. “Some of the animals will be perfectly fine with a longer period of time than that, but we don’t want to take out an animal or a human partner,” Elizabeth says.
Who can be a partner?
Pet Partners currently accepts nine different animals. Dogs are the largest category. Then there are cats, horses (miniature horses), donkeys, rabbits, guinea pigs, house rats, birds (parrots and pigeons), miniature pigs, llamas and alpacas. Pet Partners is the only national group to record this broad list of species.
The 5th Annual World’s Largest Pet Walk on September 24 Encouraging Physical Activity for People and Pets is a full-day celebration and featured fundraising highlight the powerful impact pets have on human health and well-being.
Headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, Pet Partners is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization that registers therapy animals for animal-assisted interventions. Wellness Pet Company’s Pet Partners is inviting people around the world to take out their walking shoes, grab leashes, and join the rally this year to help Pet Partners raise $100,000 to support therapy visits to animals.
The event is for anyone who wants to enjoy the health benefits of being active with pets, and walkers are encouraged to walk anytime and anywhere convenient for them on September 24th.
Whether participants can walk around their building, lead a group walk in their community, or take a quiet walk with their animals. “Pets are not only good for our emotional well-being, they can also be good for our physical health as well, and this walk just proves it,” said C. Annie Peters, President and CEO of Pet Partners. “Walking your pet can have positive outcomes for both the pet and the pet parent, so being involved in this event is a win-win!”
Honoree from Dallas Caroline Mar
This year, the annual walk will honor a very special posthumous walking hero: Caroline Marr. Caroline was a member of Pet Partners of Greater Dallas. She believed in the therapeutic benefits of animals and devoted her life to this cause, working passionately as a therapist, team evaluator, and volunteer trainer for pet partners.
During his many years in volunteer service, Caroline and her registered therapy animals have visited thousands of people in need. She was a staunch supporter of the event and pet partners for many years and passed away shortly after participating in the world’s largest pet walk last year.
As one of the original founders of Pet Partners of Greater Dallas, she and fellow pet lover Sue Shultz worked together at The Delta Society before deciding to be a local chapter of Pet Partners.
Sharon Alexander, who is now a pet partner appraiser and coordinator in Greater Dallas, says she met them at a local pet fair in Richardson. At the time, she was considering training her Australian dog, Freedom, to be a service animal.
Liberty was on the streets of Bedford and was picked up by a nylon rope strapped to her neck. “They were about to euthanize her when the technician looked at her and Freedom licked her hand,” Sharon recalls. “So the technician couldn’t do it – instead, I found a local rescue group and got her the much-needed treatment.” Sharon felt that freedom had something else to offer. “She had the temperament of a therapy dog.”
Once I met Caroline Marr, “She was so enthusiastic and so sweet, I remember thinking, ‘Maybe this could work for me.'” Sharon became a therapist, “Then Caroline talked me into being an evaluator!”
When Caroline decided to retire from doing the day-to-day work of Pet Partners, she asked Sharon to become a coordinator.
Sharon says, “Caroline was always there at every evaluation. She took care of people. She made sure they were happy with what they were doing. Her love for animals was insurmountable. She brought them to her church and workplace long before she thought about bringing animals to those places” .
Caroline also brought her trained animals to Terrell State Hospital to help treat the patients who live there.
Sharon says Caroline was a huge influence on the entire group at Pet Partners, “and she had great stories to tell! She can make us laugh as you’ve grown through her knowledge and experience.”
How to participate
Those interested can visit petpartners.org/wlpw To learn more, sign up and create an online fundraising page. Check out our pet partners on Facebook for ideas.
Pet Partners encourages participants to share photos of their walk on social media using the hashtag #WorldsLargestPetWalk.
Lilia Hollis, CEO of White Rock Dog Rescue, encourages all pet owners to participate in the march. She says, “Pets definitely have a positive impact on our lives through companionship, they ease loneliness, anxiety and depression. What’s better than having someone who is so excited to see you and spend time with you every day?”
As a special thank you to those who collect donations, Pet Partners offers incentives like pet bands, keepsake T-shirts, and more. Funds raised through the world’s largest pet support program for pets, which consists of visiting animal treatment teams that bring comfort and joy to members of the public, typically in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries, airports, and workplace welfare events.
Pet Partners is the national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities, and education. Since the organization’s establishment in 1977, the science that proves these benefits has been verified in numerous studies. With thousands of registered teams making millions of visits annually, Pet Partners operates as the most diverse and respected nonprofit in the country registering processors of many types as volunteer teams.
With the issuance of Standards of Practice for Animal Assisted Interventions and international expansion, Pet Partners has been recognized globally as the industry’s gold standard. For more information about Pet Partners, visit petpartners.org.
For more information on the world’s largest pet walk, please contact Elisabeth Van Every at [email protected] or visit petpartners.org/wlpw
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