Going from the streets to the counseling sessions and classrooms of the Phoenix Rescue Mission's Changing Lives Center can be a tough transition for our women. But for the children they often have in tow – it can be terrifying. Another unfamiliar place. Another set of strangers. Another adjustment to make. But it’s amazing how those sort of deep-seated fears and uncertainties take a back seat when Panda walks into the room. Suddenly smiles break out on faces and fuzzy hugs are in order.
Panda is a certified therapy dog and thanks to her owner, volunteer Bob Lentz, she comes to visit our kids every week. “These kids here spend a lot of time with her, they take turns,” says Bob. “It’s good for them to be around animals. They learn how to treat them, to be nice and respect their feelings. They learn a lot.” Panda has been specially trained and tested to be gentle around people and children, sudden noises, small spaces, and new experiences. Studies have shown that during their visits, therapy dogs are able to lower blood pressure, slow heartbeats and bring a sense of overall calm to those around them.
“They love it!” says Maritza with a smile, one of our childcare specialists. “Some of our kids are really impatient and quick to anger, but the dog is so calm… and that helps them learn how to be calm with her. They love sitting with her and hugging on her… It’s good for my kids.”
When children lack the vocabulary to express their emotions, they express it through their behavior, often receiving discipline in response. But interacting with a dog who is calm and accepting, regardless of their behavior, can speak volumes to children and teach them to emulate the patience they experience. We’d like to send a big thank you to Bob and Panda for their excellent service – and to you who help bring such wonderful opportunities for joy into our kids’ lives. It’s amazing how much hope and love can be found in a wet nose and a bundle of fur! It’s just another way that your support is changing the littlest lives on campus – one warm snuggle at a time.