Homeless Families in Vancouver Get a Special Holiday Visit from Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams on Christmas Eve


Portland, Ore.—Homeless families taking shelter at Share Homestead and Share Orchards Inn have something special to be excited about this Christmas Eve: a holiday visit from Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT). Dedicated to furthering human health and well-being through positive interactions with dogs, the PACTT program is a partnership between DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

“We are very pleased to announce our recent collaboration with DoveLewis, which certifies a group of our ‘career-change’ dogs and their adopters in the Portland area as therapy teams, enriching the lives of many Portland area residents who may be in homeless shelters, hospitals, residential care facilities, or other such places,” said Brent Ruppel, Director of Community Operations for Guide Dogs for the Blind. 

Career-change and retired dogs from the Guide Dogs for the Blind program are highly trained, participating in specialized PACTT training in addition to the preliminary training and socializing that is standard for guide dogs. They also undergo extensive assessment through DoveLewis to complete their certification in animal-assisted therapy. “We’re thrilled to be working in conjunction with Guide Dogs for the Blind to offer such a unique community program—one which advances our mission to promote the human-animal bond,” said Ron Morgan, DoveLewis CEO. 

PACTT program graduate Art and his handler Shirley Howard are scheduled to visit Share Homestead (located at 4921 NE Hazel Dell Ave., Vancouver, WA 98663) from 9:00-11:00AM and Share Orchards Inn (located at 5609 NE 102nd Ave., Vancouver, WA 98662) from 12:00-3:00PM on December 24. Shirley’s husband and two daughters will also be joining the team for these festive outings. “I wanted to do something special for Christmas Eve, so when Art graduated from the PACTT program, it opened up a new door for us,” said Howard. News reporters interested in attending the visits should contact DoveLewis Communications Coordinator Shawna Harch at 971.255.5933 or sharch@dovelewis.org. 

“It’s truly heartwarming to see how these incredible dogs can lift a person’s spirits in a matter of minutes,” said Kathy Loter, PACTT Program Coordinator with DoveLewis. “Making a trip to Share shelters this holiday season is just one of the ways PACTT program teams give back to members of our community who are struggling.”

Both Share shelters provide 30- to 60-day stays for eligible homeless children and adults. Families who utilize Share shelters fall into homelessness due to unforeseen financial challenges—such as a death or severe illness in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill—creating a situation where the family cannot maintain their housing.

“Medical science has shown us that interactions with a therapy dog can promote physical healing, reduce anxiety, fatigue and depression, and provide emotional support,” said Sue Warren, Director of Development and Communications for Share. “As a highly trained animal, Art can interact in a nonverbal, nonthreatening and calming manner, providing a sense of connection to children and adults who, during the emotional holiday season, are coping with anxiety or sadness as they reflect on the loss of their homes and old lives, but look toward a new future of self-sufficiency.” 

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About Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT)

Sharing a common belief in the power of the human-animal bond, DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Guide Dogs for the Blind partner to bring animal-assisted therapy to the local community through the Portland Area Canine Therapy Teams (PACTT) program. Highly trained career change dogs from Guide Dogs for the Blind and their handlers undergo extensive training and assessment through DoveLewis and Guide Dogs for the Blind to complete their certification in animal-assisted therapy. Program teams visit with people in a variety of settings, including: long-term and skilled care facilities, assisted-living communities, hospitals, residential treatment centers, schools and libraries. Learn more at www.DoveLewis.org. 

About DoveLewis

DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, established in 1973 and based in Portland, Ore., is the only nonprofit, 24-hour emergency and intensive care unit in the region. DoveLewis provides donor-funded programs to the community, including one of the United States’ largest volunteer-based animal blood banks, a nationally recognized pet loss support program, a partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind to bring animal-assisted therapy and education to the community, 24-hour stabilizing care for lost, stray and wild animals and financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and abused animals. Celebrating 40 years of service to the community, DoveLewis has treated over 500,000 animals and has been deemed one of Oregon’s Most Admired Nonprofits by The Portland Business Journal for seven years! For more information, please visit www.dovelewis.org.


About Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dogs for the Blind (www.guidedogs.com) is more than an industry-leading Guide Dog school; they are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors and volunteers, they prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are legally blind. GDB is a 501 (c)3 organization. All of their client services are provided free of charge; they receive no government funding. They are headquartered in San Rafael, California, with a second campus in Boring, Oregon. More than 12,500 teams have graduated since the organization’s founding in 1942, and there are approximately 2,100 active teams in the field.