Emmaus senior citizens group hosts Canines for Christ
Emmaus Senior Citizens meetings, held at St. Matthews E.C. Church, Fifth and Ridge streets, Emmaus, incorporate food, fellowship and informative presentations. On April 6, the program featured the dog therapy organization Canines for Christ.
Founded in 2007 by Chaplain Larry Randolph and his wife Susan, Canines for Christ blends the goals of therapy dog programs with Christian Evangelism. Since its inception, the group has grown to include 730 dogs and their handlers. Branches exist in 39 states and three foreign countries.
On the website for Morning Star Fellowship Church of Quakertown, sponsors of the local branch of Canines for Christ, the group’s mission is described as “... a Christian based, animal assisted therapy ministry...”
To participate, the dogs and their handlers must become certified through a nationally recognized therapy organization. These teams have been tested and registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Canines for Christ volunteers and their certified therapy dogs visit nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools, community groups and other organizations.
Upon request, handlers will offer spiritual support, but as stated by therapy dog owner and handler Lujean Bernstein, “they [the handlers and their dogs] offer comfort through presence.” Catherine Cerqua, Linda Kratzner and their canine associates Mitzi, Gracie, Brandy and Grady constitute the rest of the local visitation group.
As proof of Bernstein’s comment, the entrance of the dogs to the senior citizens meeting inspired smiles.
Mitzi, Gracie and Brandy, wearing bunny ears and/or seasonal frocks, rolled in side by side seated in their colorfully decorated stroller. Grady followed at the wheel of an authentic looking cardboard fire engine in full firefighter regalia.
Following their introductions and a few sniffs, the dogs worked the room, performed tricks and accepted attention from the seniors. The dogs’ colorful outfits, playful antics and pleasant dispositions made them irresistible.
At the close of the visit, each dog left behind his or her business card. The front of each card is printed with the animal’s photo, group association and contact information; the backs contain a prayer.
With the exception of Mitzi, all of these dogs were rescue dogs hoping for adoption. No matter their origins, according to Bernstein, canines make ideal goodwill ambassadors because, “Dogs [offer] the most unconditional love on earth.” They also often open the door for conversation which may lead to the sharing of ideas, understanding and/or compassion between individuals.
For general information on Canines for Christ, visit k9forchrist.org. The Morning Star Fellowship group may be contacted online at mstarqtown.org/canines_for_christ or by calling 215-529-6422.