BY JANET McAFEE
Calling Coachella Valley dog lovers! Mark your calendar now for a wonderful event on Saturday, November 25 where you and your dog can enjoy a beautiful walk and raise money for a deserving charity. Paws & Hearts is a local nonprofit organization that benefits hospitalized humans and the precious dogs that perform a wonderful service. Their canines make the rounds at local hospitals and nursing homes happily healing hearts and dispensing love.
Paws and Hearts were founded in 2000 by a 4-legged pup named Lucky. This joyful dog always went to work with his human, Richard Waxman. They found their calling after a chance meeting with the nursing director at Valencia Palms Nursing Center in Indio. Lucky became a popular visitor at Valencia Palms for his remaining 12 years of life, curling up on patients’ laps and chests offering love and comfort.
Richard Waxman, pictured here with Scruffy and Maddie, states, “We are about to start our 18th year of service to the Coachella Valley. We have a great team of volunteers, humans and canines. Our annual dog walk is a great way to celebrate another outstanding year.” Today, dozens of volunteer teams and their dogs follow in Lucky’s pawprints, bringing comfort and healing to the sick and infirm in dozens of Coachella Valley hospitals and assisted living centers.
Scientific studies confirm that dogs lower blood pressure, decrease anxiety and depression, and they have a healing impact for many medical disorders. A 2007 study documented that patients in critical care after heart failure have a significant decrease in cardiopulmonary pressure and anxiety levels upon receiving animal assisted therapy. For patients confined to an assisted living center, a visit from one of these canine Ambassadors may be the highlight of their day.
What does it take to become a therapy dog? Richard Waxman has temperature tested over 1,000 dogs and only half of those have passed his evaluation. He explains, “More often the problem is the human owner. This is not a program where you get to brag about your dog. Nor is it about how cute he is. We’re looking for dogs that are outgoing and friendly. The dog has to immediately make a friendly overture to the patient. You will never be more proud of your dog than when a patient tells you ‘Your dog made my day’ when he kisses their hand or takes a cookie from them.” There is no formal certification program required to become a therapy dog. Every organization does their own evaluation.
Paws & Hearts relies on donations. You can make a tax deductible donation on their website at www.pawsandhearts.org or mail a check to 74-133 El Paseo, Suite 7, Palm Desert, CA 92260.
Their annual Dog Walk Fundraiser is Saturday, November 25, with registration beginning at 9:00 am. The walk commences at 10:00 am at the beautiful Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand for holiday photos of you and your dog. Continental breakfast and t-shirts will be provided to all walkers. A minimum donation of $30 per person or $50 per couple is appreciated. For more information, contact Paws & Hearts at (760) 836-1406. Have a fun day with your dog. This event promises be a tail-waggin’ good time!