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By Mimi Pollack

December 10, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) --Animals have a way of reaching others and comforting in a way that people sometimes can't. When a well-trained and loving dog is brought to a retirement home, a nursing and rehabilitation facility, or a hospice, etc., it brightens the day of so many people, bringing positive companionship. That is why pet therapy dogs provide such an invaluable service, and there are many owners who would like their pets to participate. However, if someone is interested, it is very important to do some research first.

An organization called, "Love on a Leash" has a new book out called, "A Guide to Pet Therapy". The book is written by Liz Palika who provides an easy to follow and informative step by step guide. Palika has been working with both dogs and their owners for over 25 years. She currently gives classes at Kindred Spirits in Vista.

The book is organized in a clear and concise way with enough details to explain the necessary information. Each chapter covers a different aspect, including basic and specific obedience training, what a pet therapy dog does, and if your dog qualifies.

In addition, the book offers a wealth of information for pet owners to consider, helping them decide if pet therapy is for them. This includes what it takes to be successful as half of a pet therapy team, and the types of facilities where one can volunteer, such as hospices, hospitals, retirement homes, and school and library reading programs.

 The author, Liz Palika, has the right characteristics to be a good dog trainer. She is firm and pragmatic, with a heart of gold. Together with the affable Kate Abbott, and Petra Burke, Palika co-owns Kindred Spirits which she started.

Kindred Spirits offers a variety of dog classes from basic to intermediate obedience classes, along with canine good citizen, and pet therapy training.  They will work with both the owners and their dogs to see if the dog has what it takes to do different types of pet therapy work. They also offer private classes.

They work in conjunction with Love on a Leash. When a dog has completed its pet therapy training with Kindred Spirits, Love on a Leash provides the official certification.

Working with dogs has been a lifelong passion for Palika. Her first pet therapy dog was Carebear in 1986. When she saw he was bored and needed more to do, she contacted an activities director at a nursing home and began to visit. Other facilities followed, and she realized there was a need for this type of service, so she founded Love on a Leash in 1994. It became incorporated in 1995 as The Foundation for Pet Provided Therapy. It has grown to 28 states, and is a non-profit organization. Palika is no longer on the board, but still works in conjunction with them.

Pailka had had 13 pet therapy dogs over the years. Her preference is for Australian Shepherds, and she likes to have 3 at a time, a younger, middle and older dog. She gives them all names from Star Trek, and her current dogs are Bones, Sisko, and Bashir. They all participate in the training classes with Palika at Kindred Spirits.  

Palika has had a satisfying life bringing this special kind of joy to others, working with her beloved dogs, as well as writing many books, and she plans to continue for a long time.

Mimi Pollack is an ESL teacher at Grossmont College and freelance writer.

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