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Meet Canine Assisted Therapy teams who help others deal with the ‘chaos of life’

Canine Assisted Therapy volunteers Vanessa Carosella and her golden retriever Ivy visit hospitals to make patients' days a little brighter.
Canine Assisted Therapy volunteers Vanessa Carosella and her golden retriever Ivy visit hospitals to make patients’ days a little brighter.
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Canine Assisted Therapy, an ֱ Park-based nonprofit organization serving the tri-county area, provides interactive pet therapy visits to children and adults in need.

“As the largest local pet therapy organization, Canine Assisted Therapy’s 115 therapy dogs and their handlers serve over 60,000 people a year to at-risk populations including struggling students, children and adults with special needs, isolated seniors, hospital and cancer patients, children in foster care, those battling mental or behavioral health issues, and many others,” Executive Director Monica Wesolowski said.

All of  C.A.T.’s pet therapy teams are volunteers, including Vanessa Carosella, of Boca Raton, and her golden retriever, Ivy, who began their journey with the organization in February 2020. Shortly after their start as a new pet therapy team, the pandemic shut down all activities.

“We couldn’t visit people in person,” Carosella said, “but we didn’t stay idle. We decorated our cars with fun posters and paraded them with our dogs around senior residences and hospitals like Delray Medical Center. Folks got a big kick waving to us.”

Six months later, when facilities reopened, C.A.T. resumed in-person visits.

“It was great to interact with the residents again and so thrilling to see them smile as they pet the dogs,” she said. “Now, I regularly visit schools and help struggling students read. I also visit seniors in memory care and patients at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Petting Ivy eases their stress and calms their fears.”

While visiting Boca Regional recently, she was approached by a Boca Raton resident named Louis who was on his way to visit his wife.

“I will get the husband of the year award if you bring your dog to my wife Nancy’s room. She’s been in the hospital for a week,” he said to Carosella.

When Nancy saw Ivy, her face immediately lit up. She said she had been crying, but spending time with Ivy made her feel much better.

“Moments like this are so rewarding,” Carosella said. “Ivy is just a sweet, tempered girl who brings joy to many.”

Another C.A.T. volunteer, William Glover of Deerfield Beach, has worked as a first responder for over 30 years.

“I have experienced my share of the stressors that come with the job. To gain some peace and tranquility, I got Dalton, a 2-year old Australian shepherd. Dalton has transformed my life for the better, and countless other individuals who struggle with physical, spiritual and emotional health.”

Glover and Dalton have been volunteering with C.A.T. for the past year and do a lot of work with first responders.

William Glover and his Australian shepherd Dalton are volunteers with the Canine Assisted Therapy organization.
William Glover and his Australian shepherd Dalton are volunteers with the Canine Assisted Therapy organization. (Canine Assisted Therapy/Courtesy)

“I am proud to work alongside such a compassionate and intelligent canine like Dalton. My wife is an emergency trauma nurse, so we both have strong ties to our community and faith and noticed the incredible benefit that trained therapy dogs contribute to recovery from crisis,” he said.

“That is why we got involved with. With no end to the chaos of life, the skill and training required to be a certified pet therapy team is an appreciated gift to those suffering. Dalton has provided comfort during some of the most unimaginable tragedies; however, our weekly visits to rehab centers, assisted living facilities and colleges remain just as important. We are grateful to be able to positively affect so many lives.”

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