Local Hero – Four-legged Volunteers Shine

April 25, 2012 by Tails Magazine in May 2012, Rescue with 4 Comments

Neal Jenning, founder of Pets on WheelsPets on Wheels makes a difference in the community

By Brendan Quealy

In a rehab facility in Scottsdale, there was a depressed, despondent patient who would not come out of her room. She did not say a word. She barely ate or drank. She was recovering from a serious attack, which resulted in the loss of her eyesight. The worst part: it was her own son who assaulted her.

The staff feared the patient’s downward spiral was the beginning of the end. But then one day, a Golden Retriever with a bounce in his step, and a smile on his face, showed up at her door.  “There’s a lovely, big dog here to visit you,” they told her. The woman stood up, found her way to the door, and reached out to the dog. He lifted his head to her hand, and she smiled for the first time in weeks. There was not a dry eye in the house.

These are the moments that keep Neal Jennings going. Jennings is the founder of Pets on Wheels, an organization established in 1990 to enhance the lives of the elderly and infirm through regular visits from some of the friendliest four-legged volunteers in the Scottsdale area. “I loved the idea of using a pet to help enhance the lives of others. The people in homes, the people preparing for cancer surgery, or anything else, are just in a bad state—physically and mentally,” Jennings says.

Jennings and his crew of 120 two-legged volunteers visit senior centers and rehab clinics with their canine companions on a regular basis. He credits his volunteers with the success of the program—knowing the miraculous results could not happen without such a dedicated group. Each human/animal team makes as many as eight or nine visits per week, spending about an hour each visit. “Taking a dog to share is so rewarding,” Jennings says. “[The patients] look right past you, but when they see the animal you have with you—it’s about as good as it gets.”

Jennings believes people and dogs share unconditional love and understanding, which can be lacking in many human-to-human relationships. The dogs come right up to the side of the bed or, if they are small enough, they may even climb into the bed with the patients and cuddle up for a lick, belly rub, or even a nap.

“There is something about dogs that just relaxes these people. It lowers their blood pressure and brings them back to the ‘real’ world if they are depressed,” Jennings observes. ”It’s just some magical way [animals] have of accepting everyone, despite their appearance and even their actions. They share their love so much better than humans.”

Please visit PetsOnWheelsScottsdale.com to learn more!

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