Carolyn Ritchie is a retired nurse who discovered that her seven-month-old labradoodle loved to be around people when her dog snuggled up to people at the Hotel Del in San Diego.
She wanted her dog to help others, so in 2017 she along with six other owners and their dogs founded Inland Empire Therapy Dogs.
They started visiting at Plymouth Village and have grown to now serve the entire valley with 63 owners and dogs and 33 owners and dogs in training.
They have little dogs to big dogs with 80% being rescue dogs.
Ritchie said they visit the VA hospital and honor veterans for their service. At the Ronald McDonald House the dogs brighten the evenings of families with hospitalized children. The dogs love visiting college campuses to destress students during finals week.
Ritchie shared that they have special read dogs that motivate children at schools to improve their reading skills and become more confident.
Two Redlands schools, Moore Middle School and Redlands East Valley High School, have therapy dogs visit their intervention classes and make a difference in their students’ lives. Inland Empire Therapy Dogs help support all kinds of community events like parades, charity events, police-sponsored events and school events. Their dogs boost the health and well-being of seniors at senior living facilities.
These wonderful dogs visit hospitals and snuggle with children on their bed. Ritchie told the group that their dogs visit Ontario International Airport and have helped many travelers who are stressed about delayed or cancelled flights have a happier experience when the travelers can pet a friendly dog.
Ritchie explained that dogs must have necessary obedience skills and not show any signs of aggression toward other dogs or people.
Dogs must enjoy meeting people and display confidence in new environments among other prerequisites.
Ritchie said that dogs and handlers are trained by experienced team mentors and all services are always free.
Ritchie said Inland Empire Therapy Dogs has been the best blend of her interests in nursing care and her husband’s interests in education.
Her husband, Alen Ritchie, is a retired teacher.
Ritchie not only brought her dog Elliot for all to meet, she brought another owner Liz Plein and her husky mix Chance.
The retired teachers were impressed with the commitment of this program to spread love and leave joy in so many places in the Inland Empire.
Fidelis Iota is the retired teachers’ chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, an honorary organization for women educators. Chapter president Sonya DeLange of Yucaipa officiated at the Jan. 3 meeting.
Bookish event: Melinda Stevens World Understanding Book Group will discuss recent books from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at A.K. Smiley Public Library, including “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See and “For All the Tea in China” by Sarah Rose. Author Lisa See will join the discussion via Skype.