Make a donation today to support ARF's Pet Hug Pack.
Animal assisted activities provided by the "Pet Hug Pack"
The Pet Hug Pack began making visits in August 2002. As of July 2012, the Pet Hug Pack has grown to more than 135 handlers and qualified pets making 280 visits each month to 70 facilities in Contra Costa County, California. The team also participates in education and community events at ARF and in the surrounding area. Photographs of ARF's dedicated Pet Hug Pack team members are available here.
Studies show interaction with companion animals lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety and otherwise improves oneâ€™s physical and mental health. In addition, research demonstrates many people who are emotionally â€śclosed downâ€ť or unresponsive will often open up in remarkable ways when they are petting a cat or dog.
ARFâ€™s Pet Hug Pack teams visit hospitals, rehab centers, schools and adult day care facilities throughout Contra Costa county. Pack pets have been tested to ensure they are well-mannered, healthy and possess good temperament. The teams provide unconditional love to the people they visit. There are proven health benefits to animal interaction which recipients enjoy by petting or holding an animal team member.
Each visit allows time for 30-60 minutes of casual animal interaction.
All Ears ReadingÂ®
Participate in ARFâ€™s All Ears ReadingÂ® program in local libraries and schools.
Got the teaching bug? You and your pet can assist in humane education classes at ARF and in local schools. Opportunities include attending after-school programs, hosting obedience demonstrations, attending child birthday parties at ARF, visiting Camp ARF during the summer and more!
Help spread the word about ARFâ€™s life-saving mission and programs. Pet Hug Pack members accompany the mobile adoption van to community events and locations to promote ARF, greet the public and possibly recruit new Pet Hug Pack members. ARFâ€™s greeter/tabler training is recommended.
Humane Emergency Action Response Team (HEART)
ARF certified dogs and cats are on call to help schools get students
through difficult emotional emergencies. Working with school counselors, educators and administrators ARF arranges
for teams of humane educators and trained companion animals to facilitate
This service is free of charge. For more information about this program,
please contact us at 925.296.3176 or PetHugPack@arf.net.
I had just completed my compliance training, so when a â€śCode Greenâ€ť sounded as Toby and I signed in for our shift at Kaiser in Walnut Creek, I knew it meant a child was missing.
After the security men rushed around, Toby and I went up to Pediatrics. There was this nervous, darling little boy about one year old being held in the arms of a security man. All the staff were trying to calm the child, but as soon as he saw Toby he beamed and reached down and seemed to relax. Pet Therapy in action! Toby has never been as warmly welcomed as he was that day. All in a day's job. I love this work!
Ripley and Olivia
During a recent visit to the VA hospital with Ripley, we came across a patient named Manny who suffered from a traumatic brain injury. The staff told me he had not responded to any stimulation or even fully opened his eyes for quite some time. When Manny saw Ripley coming down the hall, with one eye half open he waved to Ripley to come to him and we sat on the bench with him for 20 minutes.
With Ripley on his lap, Manny truly came alive to the point the staff took a photograph of the two of them together. The staff couldn't believe Manny had opened both his eyes and talked to Riley non stop, wanting Ripley to stay with him the entire visit. The staff said Manny hadn't opened his eyes previously even after many attempts to stimulate him. What a heart warming experience! Our veterans just love ARF's Pet Hug Pack dogs and I feel blessed being a part of this program.
Lucy, Kody and Ed
On my first visit with Evelyn four years ago at Muir Senior Care, I watched as she fell in love. The object of her great affection was Lucy, my ten-year-old, 65-pound Yellow Labrador. Evelyn was in early stages of Parkinsonâ€™s and during our visits, she would sit in her chair and crochet with slightly shaky hands as we talked. She showered Lucy with pets and love, which Lucy returned with her beautiful soulful eyes, kisses and insatiably wagging tail.
Over the next two years, Lucy and I visited Evelyn every month and sadly watched a slow, steady decline â€“ from chair, to wheelchair to bed confinement â€” as the Parkinsonâ€™s took more of a hold. Evelynâ€™s hands now shook so much that she could no longer crochet, but she was always thrilled to see Lucy. While Lucy and I usually spent less than five minutes with most of our patients, we always stayed 20 minutes or more with Evelyn.
Last August, Lucy passed away at age 13. Though devastated by the loss of my best friend, I felt a passionate commitment to our patients and made the decision to continue working in the VAP program. I was blessed that a good friend had a nine-year-old Yellow Labrador named Kody rated to do visits. Kody looked like the male twin of Lucy. On our first visit with Evelyn, she assumed Kody was Lucy, since I hadnâ€™t yet had a chance to tell her about Lucyâ€™s passing. When I told her that Lucy had died, Evelynâ€™s eyes filled with tears. She took her shaking hands and held mine as we both cried. We shared a special moment and grieved our loss of our best friend Lucy. It was a total reversal of roles as I became the patient and Evelyn became the therapy giver.
Maggie and Debby
I always looked forward to visiting a particular women in a convalescent home in Orinda. She was afflicted with advanced stages of dementia but, nevertheless, retained her beauty and grace in all ways. The empty, unfocused, stare she always expressed was heartbreaking. She was sometimes dressed and sitting in her chair, alongside her caregiver. This was one of those days. I snuggled Maggie up as close as I could to this woman, and got her to lay her head on her lap. What happened next was breathtaking. For the first time, I saw the woman's eyes fix onto a particular objectâ€¦ Maggie's eyes, and with an intensityâ€¦ a sense of longing. I helped her right hand onto Maggie's left ear, which she held very softly; and then, on her own, reached out to Maggie's right ear with her other hand. For several minutes, she stared brightly into Maggie's eyes, as if memories were possibly re-lit from a comforting part of her life long ago. With this loving intense stare, she was also gently, but firmly massaging Maggie's ears, as if she was attempting to hold onto Maggie, and this experience, forever. This sent chills up my spine, and brought tears to my eyes. I, also, think we could have stayed in that positionâ€¦ in that timeless moment, with her for hours, as it felt like a miracle. Words were not needed. I hope it was a "small miracle" for this lovely woman, as I know she didn't have too much longer on this earth; and I do hope that Maggie gave her a final gift before her departure.
(I had a similar experience with my Mom and Maggieâ€¦ who was very much a part of her life, and her comfort. My Mom always calmed down and breathed easier when Maggie was with me. She, also, would look at her with longing, but also with comfort.)
Terra and Heather
While Terra and I were visiting the John Muir Hospital oncology wing I saw an elderly man being shaved by a member of the nursing staff.Â Since he really wanted to visit with the pet group, Terra and I waited until his shave was complete.
Unfortunately he couldnâ€™t move his head to look down at the dogs so I had Terra sit at the end of his bed so he could see her.Â She then maneuvered closer to him so he could reach over and pet her.Â Since Terra is a large dog he was able to easily reach her head to pet her lovingly.
Because he couldnâ€™t move his head he chose, instead, to close his eyes and continued petting Terra, smiling happily.Â The nursing staff remarked that it was the first time they had ever seen the man smile.