Pacific Animal Therapy Society volunteers spread love

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The benefits of pet therapy are well known, and a Victoria nonprofit is dedicated to spreading love.

“It’s amazing to see all of these volunteers participating in this grassroots effort,” said Pacific Animal Therapy Society President Clementine Hiltner.

Pacific Animal Therapy Society (PATS) volunteers have been making a difference in our community for over three decades and after a COVID shutdown, they are back at the popular University of Victoria Animal Cafe, helping calm stressed students .

“We come in all shapes and sizes and they’re all very friendly and adorable,” says Hiltner. “I think the students get a lot out of it. They are all far from home, it is a very stressful time.

PATS volunteers have been coming to the pet cafe, in partnership with the UVic Multi-Faith Center, the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia and St. John Ambulance, for the past five years.

“It was fabulous to be here at UVic and meet all these lovely young people who are far from home and studying and on the precipice of all kinds of greatness,” says Jenni Aitkin, PATS volunteer.

UVic Pet Cafe was founded by Reverend Ruth Dantzer, the Anglican spiritual care provider for student welfare at the university, and is funded by the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia.

“I wanted to create a space for community building,” says Reverend Dantzer. “The freshmen leave their families and their pets and are alone and the Pet Cafe has been this amazing center for community building. It is a big draw for many students from various backgrounds and the pet therapy is amazing.

For students, the Wednesday afternoon cuddle sessions on campus at Finnerty Gardens and the Multifaith Center are a major mental health booster.

“It is so good!” says Linea Leist, student at UVIc. “It’s just therapeutic and it really heals.”

“Just touching their fur and having the company of a pet is really nice, especially since we’re in dorms,” says student Maddie Haudjord.

“It’s nice to take a break from all the stress,” adds UVic student Carys Mitchell. “It’s just a really stressful time so it’s nice that we can come here and relax with all the dogs.”

The Pet cafe is one of many pet therapy programs the Pacific Animal Therapy Society has participated in over the years.

“PATS was founded 33 years ago by Sadey Guy, a retired nurse,” says Hiltner. “There is a PAWS and Tails literacy program where we read with elementary school students, we do one-on-one visits to hospitals, cancer clinics and nursing homes, private residences. “

Run entirely by volunteers, PATS aims to build bond and community, and the volunteers who give of their time say they get a lot more from it.

“It seems to bring a lot of peace and happiness,” says volunteer Jenni Aitkin.

“I’m always surprised,” says Hiltner, who also volunteers his time. “I think I’m going to come here and give back to the community, I have my dog ​​and she’s adorable but really I get so much in.”

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