Westminster’s Angel on a Leash Therapy Dog Program Grows and Thrives

As it enters its third year of existence, The Westminster Kennel Club’s therapy dog program, Angel On A Leash, is growing in many ways, continuing to change the lives of many people in need.

Under the leadership of program coordinator Greer Griffith, Angel On A Leash continues to be a wonderful success in benefiting the young patients at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian. The number of volunteer teams has grown to more than 25 since the program’s inception.

Volunteer teams continue to be active in the Child Life Department at the Hospital. There, the benefits of the therapy dog visits are spontaneous, coming from interaction between the patient and the dog and its human partner and promoting smiles, conversation and positive emotional responses.

And recently, Angel On A Leash teams have expanded their roles, adding more involved activities in the Occupational / Physical Therapy Department. There the dog becomes an integral part of the treatment process, working with a health professional to promote specific goal-oriented improvements in physical, emotional and cognitive skills of the individual patients.

Angel On A Leash volunteer teams have also begun to visit the Ronald McDonald House in New York City. The New York House is one of more than 100 Ronald McDonald Houses around the world that provide a “home away from home” for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals, a low-cost temporary residence near the medical facility where family members can stay and find support from other families in similar situations.

The use of therapy dogs has been shown to help reduce stress for pediatric patients and their families. Studies are showing the many benefits, ranging from encouraging smiles and conversation, to motivating them during physical therapy (click here to read about a recent study at Albertina Kerr Center in Portland, Oregon).

Angel On A Leash enhances the healing process for the Hospital’s pediatric patients. With organizations such as the Delta Society, New York’s Good Dog Foundation, and the ASPCA providing the training for special dogs and their human partners, the program touches the lives of patients, their families, and staff at New York’s leading children’s hospital.

“Therapy dogs bring unconditional love from an animal to the bedside, which greatly contributes to the emotional and physical healing process,” says Joan Bompane, Director of Child Life at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

Angel On A Leash is supported through the sales of the Westminster poster, “Westminster. There’s Only One.” The 2007 poster, by artist Debra Hurd of San Antonio, TX, will be unveiled in November at the Hospital and will be available for purchase via the Westminster website at that time. It will also be for sale at the show, with Ms. Hurd on hand to personally sign posters.

For information about Angel On A Leash, call (212) 213-3212 or e-mail angelonaleash@wkcpr.org.


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