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The power of therapy dogs, bringing smiles to countless faces

Posted at 7:49 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 19:49:08-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A 7-year-old terminally ill girl from Wisconsin has asked people to send pictures of their dogs to help make her feel better. Thousands of people have posted their pictures of their furry loved ones.

There's something about the four-legged friends that make people smile.

"A dog has such a wonderful ability to connect with humans," Theresa Johnson, owner of a therapy dog said. Johnson takes her ten-year-old golden retriever Riley to the airport and assisted living homes around Western New York to help make people feel better.

Riley has been volunteering as a therapy dog for 5 years with the Paws for Love Program with the SPCA serving Erie County. The program is completely volunteer based and any dog can apply to be a therapy dog but they have to pass a behavioral test and evaluation.

"Stable temperament, who is confident, not super pushy, but they like to be around people, they like to be touched they like the interaction," Gretchen Buckles is a therapy handler at Canine Academy in Clarence. She trains dogs to be well behaved while working with people. She says she has seen a major increase in the interest in having therapy dogs in the last 10 years.

"They can see how these dogs and affect and enrich people's lives," Buckles said.

With their loving nature-- dogs help people in many ways. There are therapy dogs that are invited to places to bring joy to people. Service dogs that are needed for a reason and can travel anywhere. Then there are emotional support animals that are used for anxiety for in house use only.

The SPCA adds they are always looking for more therapy dogs, if you think your dog could bring more smiles to others head to their website for more information.