Residents find Pawfect joy

Apr 13, 2023
Volunteers from Pawfection bring their therapy dogs to Pathways to Care April 12, 2023. José says the dog visits help lift spirits and take residents away from their troubles. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

CASSELBERRY | Man’s best friend is breathing new life into Pathways to Care, an assisted-living facility in Casselberry run by Catholic Charities of Central Florida. The dogs stroll in weekly for playtime and a few hugs, and that brings peace.

The residents, homeless men and women looking for a safe place to recover after surgery or illness, are uplifted by the pups.

“I love ‘em,” said William – a Pathways resident.

“They’re so friendly.” José added, “They bring us a lot of joy, and spiritual peace. And they give us confidence and belief in ourselves.”

Yet another resident, Bobby, noted their “unconditional love. … They don’t judge people.”

Kyle Osborn, Catholic Charities of Central Florida healthcare services ministry director, said, “The calming effect of interacting with an animal can be beneficial for those struggling with mental health conditions because it can reduce stress and anxiety.”

Catherine Galda, director of behavioral services, added, “Pets can lower our heart rate, increase calm respirations, and increase feelings of connection to something.”

The interaction was made possible by Pawfection in Orlando and its volunteers whose dogs have either  completed training certification or are working on mentor hours. John Frazer, who is a Pawfection volunteer mentor/trainer, visited Pathways with his wife, Trish.

“We’re sharing (the dogs’) love with everybody and helping the emotional support of the people they visit,” he said.

William Bernardo, Pathways to Care director, heard about Pawfection last year and was eager to make the connection. First, they visited every other week, but the benefits and smiles were so great the decision was made to book weekly. One resident even cherishes a photo of him with two friends and the dogs, so he doesn’t miss his buddies who aren’t with him right now.

Watch the interview here.

To volunteer at Pathways to Care, click here.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic Staff, April 14, 2023

Pathways to Care Pet Therapy