Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi holding therapy dog graduation

Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi held their graduation ceremony over the weekend, honoring new and re-registering pet dog therapy teams.

Zoe, Jude, and Sadie are some of the newly certified pet therapy dogs that will work alongside their handlers for Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi.

For Sabrina Nastrini and her therapy dog, Jude, it’s been a long time coming as they started the certification process over a year ago and COVID really slowed it down. “It’s so exciting to be able to do this. It really is a gift to both of us to be able to visit the hospitals, nursing homes, children. I really just feel lucky to be a part of it.”

Now, she and Jude can work together as a therapy dog team. “I’ve always wants to do this and he had all the missing pieces that I needed. So, it’s really just him. He inspired me to move forward with it.”

According to Diane Brandhorst, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences. Her dog Zoe graduated Saturday and now she has two therapy dogs as her other dog Scott is re-registering. “Oftentimes I introduce them as therapy dogs and I’m their handler and they’re your therapist for the day.”

With Scott and Zoe, she hopes she can volunteer twice as much. “Making people happy and having them enjoy the dogs makes me happy and gets me out and about and I’m excited about being out in the community again.”

Together, the handlers and therapy dogs will travel all over to brighten people’s days. They stop by multiple different facilities and sometimes let children read to them in libraries or comfort those in hospitals like they do with Singing River’s Paws program. Pet Therapy Coordinator Jennifer Taylor said, “Getting to do pet therapy I can see a direct impact on our patients. It’s so powerful to be able to provide comfort when they’re not feeling well and give them a smile when they don’t feel like smiling.”

The visitations can often be very emotional. “It just tweaks that special place and they really react.”

Although they were very restricted during the pandemic, the 2021 class of therapy dogs is ready to assist Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi in their mission of bringing joy to the community.

Categories: Local News, News