Desmond Tutu lauds therapy dog program in Canada

St. John Ambulance’s innovative Canadian Therapy Dog program received a huge international endorsement this week. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa lauded the initiative, which for more than 20 years has offered unique care to those who are sick, lonely or in need of companionship.

Tutu was welcomed to Toronto Monday by Izak, one of the organization’s therapy dogs, and St. John Ambulance members from around the world. Tutu is Prior (chief officer) of St. John in South Africa.

“It is an honour to attend this international gathering and to share stories of compassion,” Tutu said in a statement. “No matter where you are in the world, people’s lives are saved by first aid, and communities are strengthened by the many programs offered by St. John, such as their innovative and uniquely Canadian, Therapy Dog initiative.”

In Canada, the program began as a pilot project in 1992 in Peterborough, Ont. Now, there are almost 3,000 dog teams across the country. Last year, therapy dog teams volunteered more than 200,000 hours of their time visiting hospitals, retirement residences, care facilities, schools and universities, according to the organization.

Photo Salvatore Sacco/The Canadian Press/St. John Ambulance

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