All Smiles and Fur Friends Teams are Volunteers Everyone involved in Smiles and Fur Friends pay for all their own expenses, gas, attire, dues, pet baths and grooming, and give their valuable time. All this is balanced by lumps in their throats, hugs from wonderful people, and often making some life-long friends met while making visits together. It is the only win-win-win activity we know that brings loving, caring people together for no other reason than to share some canine or feline love and bring a smile to a stranger who could use one. Each volunteer has their own reasons and favorite visits, of course. But all of us LOVE TO MAKE SMILES HAPPEN.
WHERE we go and WHY we do this Our volunteers are dedicated to helping others who are in need. They are caring, compassionate people with gentle, kind animals who bring unconditional love and familiar comfort where it is needed. WHY is pet therapy important to you? We see daily what our pets do for others. Pets don't care if someone is bedridden, or in a wheel chair, or doesn't have hair, or legs, or can't see or speak. Pets don't stare or ask questions. They just cuddle or put their head in your lap and lean into your hand as you pet them. Our pets help kids feel ‘normal’ for a while, even if they can't talk or walk or have tubes everywhere. Our pets help the elderly remember a favorite pet and pleasant time from their past, and our visits give them a friendly human to chat with for a brief time, too. Our pets give dementia patients a few minutes of unconditional love and their body remembers how to pet the animals and their eyes light up even if their mind will soon forget the experience.
Here are some of our reasons we love to go on our monthly visits: Why I like to visit Nursing Homes, Assisted Living & Rehabs: We help elderly patients remember and talk about the fun times in their lives with their own pets. More importantly, we give them a topic of conversation that does not involve their meals or ailments. They have something positive to bring to later conversations with their relatives, friends and other residents, and that is a huge benefit for their lives long after our visit. We meet many relatives who have heard all about our pets, even though people seldom remember our humans’ names. Why I like to visit kids with Special Needs: Animals don’t care if a kid is different or can or can’t do things like other kids. Our pets just love to be petted and these kids respond to this unconditional love with total joy. Many of their homes have no pets and they get to experience a friendly pet in a very controlled and safe environment. Our pets’ ‘business cards’ are enjoyed and often collected by many kids. Why I like to visit kids who read to my pet (our ‘BOOKS’ - Books Offer Our Kids Smiles - visits): Reading is vital to being able to be successful in society. And it should also be fun. Without being judged or corrected or criticized, even kids who are struggling readers will happily read aloud to our calm, attentive pets. Kids eagerly greet us at each visit and soon know our pets by name. They will often bring their favorite book from home to share with the pet. ‘Books Offer Our Kids Smiles’ is always fun for the kids and our people and pets. We have teams active in elementary schools, special needs classes and in public libraries. And an adult or two even thought our dogs could read! Why I like to visit Hospitals and the Cancer Centers: These people are fighting for their very lives. They are often terrified and feel very alone when they are being treated. Our visits let them forget their fears and just concentrate on a friendly pet that loves them unconditionally. They are able to relax and talk about something positive. Why I like to visit Hospice Patients: There are seldom smiles present when we first enter their rooms. Their families are all quiet as everyone seems to be just waiting. But our visit brings smiles and often laughter as patient and family enjoy our pet and tell us about theirs.
Our teams make many ‘one-time’ visits throughout each year. Here is some feedback on these visits: Why I like to visit Students at Final Exam times: Often, college students are far from home and we bring familiar comfort at one of the most stressful times of their academic life. A brief time away from constant studying is appreciated greatly by these students. Most miss their pets more than their families. Families can be phoned and texted – their pets can’t. Many will roll on the school library floor hugging our pets. And they also enjoy the ability to just talk with our adults who are not going to grade them – a benefit shared with us by the librarians. Students often comment to us about the ‘weight lifted off their shoulders’ and the renewed energy to return to their studying. The high school students we visit at their schools during their final exams also appreciate this opportunity for stress relief. Why I like to visit Scout Troops, Adult Groups, and other ‘guest-speaker’ organiztions: Girl and Boy Scouts and similar programs have pet-related badges they can earn by studying about pet care and about how pets are trained to help humans. Adult community groups like Lions or Rotary are often interested in our program, too. Our teams enjoy educating these groups about the training for different kinds of certification for different purposes. The differences among service animals and emotional support animals and therapy animals is information that most people are not aware of and we now incorporate a lot of education in our ‘guest speaker’ visits. Why I like to visit Alzheimer’s Day-Programs: Many churches offer monthly day programs for Alzheimer’s clients, often accompanied by their care-takers. It is a chance for these clients to interact with other people, usually accompanied by lunch and activities. When we join them, we not only bring some furry love to the clients, our pets also serve as stress-relievers to the care-givers. These special providers are often forgotten and we love bringing smiles to them, too. We truly appreciate our people.
Many of our volunteers work many extra hours behind the scenes to help us succeed. Some additionally serve as team leaders for the facilities that receive regular pet therapy visits. We love all of our people and their gentle, accepting pets who bring smiles to so many faces. Bless every one of them!
Smiles and Fur Friends - We are a Texas Non-Profit 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Charity - Established 3-26-2017