December 2019 Volunteer Spotlight — Laura Poole

What is the Visiting Paws program?

We select dogs from the shelter to visit nursing homes and retirement communities in the city of Virginia Beach. I personally visit about 14 locations right now, some monthly, some twice a month. I’ve also gone to schools for final exams and we set up in the student center. What better way to destress than to hang out with a dog?

What is the impact of the program and why is it important?

It’s just so rewarding. When you take a dog to these places, like the memory care units at the retirement communities, these people are bound to beds and wheelchairs. But when they interact with one of our shelter dogs, their reactions are incredible. Sometimes the residents are crying because they are so happy to see an animal and to have human contact as well. We spend 45 minutes at each location and the time we spend there is incredible. When you see somebody staring at the ceiling and you bring a little pup up to the bed and they smile, it just makes it all worthwhile.

Does this program help the animals destress outside of a shelter environment?

Yes it does! The biggest reason we have this program is for the dogs. Just to get the dogs out of the shelter for an hour is great for their mental state. It just gets them out and gets them socialized. I also know of two cases where the dogs were adopted by a staff member of the places we visit!