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Students finding "Love on a Leash" as a therapeutic boost

Therapy dogs visits Oro Grande
Therapy dogs visits Oro Grande

Students at Oro Grande Elementary were joined Thursday morning by some furry friends.

The six therapy dogs – alongside their owners, who are all members of Lake Havasu Love on a Leash – were read books by a number of pupils rotating over the course of an hour.

“I work every day with struggling readers, the kiddos that feel like they don’t belong in a classroom or struggle with reading, so I wanted to bring something to the school where they could feel successful,” said Tara Smith, a teacher who helped introduce the weekly event at the school about five years ago. “Not only has the confidence in their reading gone up but also the confidence in their self-esteem and as teachers we look forward to it every week too, it’s kind of an uplifting experience.”

As a chapter of a national nonprofit, Lake Havasu Love on a Leash formed six years ago, providing pet therapy to Havasu residents as a way to brighten their day. Including the addition of four members last week, the group sits at a total of 34 with almost 40 certified therapy dogs. All members are volunteers and self-funded.

The members and their dogs visit assisted living facilities and multiple elementary schools across Havasu on a weekly basis, as well as Lake Havasu High School the second Wednesday of each month.

“The first time we went (to LHHS) was like the day before finals so it was supposed to kind of calm the kids down and take away their anxiety about finals, and I think we did that,” said Patti Matt, a member of Lake Havasu Love on a Leash for more than a year.

Before joining the local chapter, dogs must have basic obedience training, explained Darlene Hermann, one of 10 original members. That training is later tested by the group through evaluations and 10 monitored visits by a senior member, she added. Once the tests are successfully passed, the dog will receive their certification, vest and identification badge.

“They can work as much as they want,” said Joy Koblosh, co-chair of the chapter.

To become a member, contact Lake Havasu Love on a Leash Chairwoman Sue Ladd at (928) 486-0883.


by Chelsea Curtis, Today's News-Herald*
Feb 2, 2018

*used with permission

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