Health & Wellness: Therapy Dogs

Molly enjoying some scratches

On August 6th, we had a great time with Kris and Connie and their therapy dog partners, Cola and Molly! Both pairs volunteer with North Star Therapy Animals (NSTA), a non-profit organization that brings animal therapy services to communities across the Twin Cities metro area. NSTA requires therapy teams to complete a training class and pass an evaluation from Pet Partners, a global organization with a renowned Therapy Animal Program.

Connie Priesz always wanted to work with a therapy dog. When she retired from teaching, she got Molly, a golden-red Vizsla, for that purpose. Together, they joined NSTA in 2011. Now eight years old, Molly has been brightening days since she was only one year old! She and Connie visit communities of all kinds, from libraries and schools to hospitals.

Connie and Molly specialize in visiting veterans in VA hospitals. It is a cause dear to Connie, as her husband is a Vietnam vet. He often comes along to help Molly and Connie comfort and encourage wounded veterans who are healing both physically and mentally.

Cola in her carrier bed

Kris Kaihoi and Cola joined NSTA this January, and they are loving every minute of it! A registered poodle, two-year-old Cola is a “teacup” poodle at only 2.5 pounds! Since she is so small, she is a “carry pet” at NSTA with rabbits and guinea pigs. This means she travels everywhere in a tiny bed with her name on it and is protected from more dangerous or complex sessions.

Kris is a retired Hopkins schoolteacher, so she and Cola focus on helping students. They are graduates of the R.E.A.D. program, which trains dogs to assist people struggling to read. Cola is even trained to look and put a paw on a page with the “touch” command!

We want to thank Cola and Molly and their handlers, Kris and Connie, for visiting us at Sojourn! The Sojourners loved spending time with your furry companions, and your visit was a great blessing to the Sojourn community.

If you would like to learn more about NSTA, please visit their website at www.northstartherapyanimals.org
Learn more about Reading Education Assistance Dogs here and Pet Partners here.