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Meet the cutest therapists in Lower Mainland

A pet therapy group in the Lower Mainland, offering a 'paws-itive' outlook on life to the communities in need through their four-legged furry friends, is celebrating their 40 years in September.

To understand one’s love, look into their eyes. 

Pina Scaglione’s mother suffered from vertigo. It was the cute therapist's love that kept her going through the challenging times.

“For several days she (my mother) can't move, and our dog got so connected with my mother that she lays beside her doesn't make a sound and just comforts her through her through the sessions.”

If this ain’t love, I’d like a crash course on it.

On days when everything become bleak, the German shepherd in Scaglione’s house became the beacon of light: For her, for her mother who suffers from vertigo and the whole family.

Pets  dogs in particular, love in an unconditional way that most of us cannot comprehend. Sometimes, we need that love and companionship to get through the dark times.

Scaglione, having hit the brakes on her career of 38 years in the research industry, and experiencing firsthand how a compassionate pet could change a life, found a fulfilling purpose to her life when she started working for Pets and Friends, a non-profit organization that aims to spread "paws-itivity" to the communities.

Putting together a team of volunteers  owners and their pets, the charity facilitates pet-therapy services for the communities in need of support.

Scaglione feels it is imperative for certain communities, especially the ones that are more isolated (like long-term care homes) to feel the touch, the love in the eyes and the connection.

“There is actually a physiological kind of benefit,” she said. “From the moment they see you, you're smiling because they are just loving you. It is very calming and relaxing.”

The group hopes to give the communities in need of support more “paws-itivity” by sharing their love and their pets through these furry, four-legged friends.

Carla Pellegrini, secretary of Pets and Friends, who has been volunteering for over five years now, feels that it is fulfilling to share the love with those in need, and that the presence of pets has the ability to change a life.

“A lot of research shows how beneficial just being in the presence of pets is, and especially petting them can be to our well-being,” she said. “So at Pets and Friends, we try to bring that love and the positive impact of pet therapy to pretty much anybody who needs it.”

Pellegrini recalls her favourite moment volunteering. “I’ll never forget there was one moment where there was a gentleman who wasn't was unable to really control his physical movements.”

“He was kind of rocking and shaking and had a really hard time being still, but he would pet the dog and it was just such an incredible thing to see.”

To her, it was a powerful moment to see that intimate connection between the dog and the man. To see the eyes light up  in both the dog and the person, she feels that this is why the group does what they do.

The charity is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Sept. 17 in Burnaby. Although it is not open to the public, the group hopes to see an uptick in volunteers and donations to facilitate the need for more pet therapy in the Lower Mainland.

With a team of 120 volunteers spread across Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey, Port Moody and the North Shore, the group hopes to expand its pet therapy to more areas in British Columbia.

Although these pets and handlers are not trained professionally in therapy, the group screens thoroughly for behaviours and demeanours in the pets under different circumstances, including a criminal record check for the owners, to ensure the safety of all parties  volunteers, their pets, and the communities in need.

Ultimately, the goal is to have an impact in people’s life by sharing time and love through the furry, four-legged friends.

“The whole idea is that just a little bit of sharing your time, and your presence in your community might make a huge impact and in the lives of those people around you,” Scaglione said.

Ahead of the 40th anniversary celebrations, you can check out the organization’s page for information on volunteering and donations here.

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