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On the Town: In a St. Paddy's Day league of their own

March 20, 2012|By Ruth Sowby

It was St. Paddy's Day at the Glendale Assistance League's monthly luncheon. At $2 per person, the league's Senior Neighborhood Fellowship luncheons are the best bargain in town. Wednesday's (March 14) lunch was no exception. Chairwoman Mary Margaret Smith welcomed about 100 seniors to the league's clubhouse on Harvard. “We're all Irish today,” Smith said. “Even the dogs.”

Today's program was a favorite — therapy dogs and how they interact with humans.

New league member Karen Saunders introduced the handlers and their dogs as each was paraded out, worthy of the fanciest of dog shows. Saunders' dog was Quatsch, a 4-year-old female Doberman. Liza, a 6-year-old male French sheep dog, was handled by Jerry Werk. Piper, a 5-year-old female Australian shepherd, was supervised by Burbank resident Janet Snyder. Last came Munaqua, a 12-year-old female mixed terrier. She had two handlers, Glendale resident Bobette Tomasoff and Daphne Bell. All the dogs live in their handlers' homes and are personal pets.

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Saunders referred to studies showing that interaction with a dog can lower blood pressure, rehabilitate and promote relaxation, relieve anxiety and stress, improve communication between humans, motivate patients, reduce the need for aggression in certain adult substance abusers and, of course, provide unconditional love. Therapy dogs have been known to warn patients of the onset of an epileptic seizure and wake a patient up if they were ready to go into diabetic shock.

Saunders also described the history of therapy dogs. One of the first therapy dogs in the U.S. participated in a visiting animal program at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C., in 1919. Since that time, therapy dog groups were established including Therapy Dogs Incorporated and Delta Society. It was at the Hollywood Dog Obedience Club that the handlers on today's program first met each other.

Luncheon guest Margie Uruski from Glendale was one of the first in line to interact with one of the dogs. Piper stood on his haunches and gently put her paws on Uruski's chest. Piper knew he was center stage and even mugged for the camera.

The dogs definitely upstaged the lunch that followed. Packets of hand sanitizers were on every placemat, so those touching the dogs could clean their hands. Appropriate for a St. Patrick's Day lunch was the corned beef and cabbage served by league members. Cornbread on the side filled everyone up.

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