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Therapy Dog Improves Lives

Carefor Health & Community Services welcomed a new volunteer to their ranks of over 300 when George, the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog walked through their doors. George is a four-year old Goldendoodle full of unconditional love. Francoise Trembley and Flight Engineer Sgt Clarence (Smitty) Smith of Garrison Petawawa thought George had the potential to be a therapy dog. Trembley suggested they have George evaluated and assessed to see if he might be a good fit for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. George was tested to see how he reacted to loud noises, or disturbances in his routine. The seventy-five pound military family pet passed with flying colours.

“The Therapy Dog Program is a wonderful program for our 92 residents to participate in. It helps overcome issues of isolation, socialization, encourages physical activity, fundamental movement, and memory retention,” explained Debbie Archambeault, Carefor Recreation Coordinator.

She noted seniors can become isolated in their rooms or residences, or avoid socialization, but through the program pet loving seniors are given the opportunity to interact with therapy dogs, their handlers, program coordinators and mentors.

“While seniors feel, touch, pet and cuddle the dog they are using their fundamental movement skills, exercising, stretching and employing fine motor skills. Enhanced programs like this are linked to stress relief and pain distraction. Participants find interacting with the dog comforting and calming. Interaction with the dog can also help with memory retention,” said Archambeault.

The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program brings joy and comfort to the sick, lonely and those in need of a friendly visit. Program Coordinator Rachel Weikman explained, “Our volunteers and dogs truly have a passion for the work they do and you can see it shine through their beaming smiles. Knowing the extent to which our program is improving the lives of members of our community on a weekly basis is an overwhelming reward.”

Seventeen year-old Maxxim Smith, son of Trembley and Clarence, is George the Goldendoodle’s handler.

“I want to get into medicine. I see the therapeutic benefit of what George offers people. I’ve been taking George to see the Carefor residents for several weeks. George is always really happy to go back and enjoys welcoming everybody when they walk in the room. It’s great working with the people there, and it’s really nice to see how much George makes everyone smile.

“It makes each visit and volunteering a great pleasure. I also believe in making a difference. That’s why I volunteer to bring George in,” said Maxxim.

George is a dog who learns quickly, “All I have to do is show him the therapy scarf he wears when we go volunteering and he gets so excited he just jumps in the car. He already knows where we’re going. I think he likes giving back to his community too,” laughs Maxxim.

For more information contact Carefor Pembroke Renfrew County at Pembroke Civic Complex 613-732-9993, or [email protected] or check out our website at

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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