Animal therapy group Heeling Friends recruiting new teams |

Animal therapy group Heeling Friends recruiting new teams

Teresa Ristow
Dash Levy, of Florida, reads to Barbara Clark and her dog, Julia, inside the Bud Werner Memorial Library a few years ago as part of Heeling Friend's R.E.A.D program. That program ended this year, but the group is hoping to find more volunteer teams to get it back up and running as soon as possible.
Courtesy Photo

If you go:

What: Information night to learn about Heeling Friends

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7

Where: Strawberry Park Elementary, 39620 Amethyst Drive

— Steamboat Springs’ animal-assisted therapy organization Heeling Friends is seeking new person-and-pet duos to provide therapy in a variety of settings in Routt County.

Most teams either visit patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center or read with elementary students at Steamboat Springs schools as part of Heeling Friends’ READ program.

The organization also visits Yampa Valley Regional Airport to calm nervous travelers and Casey’s Pond and The Haven in Hayden to visit with seniors. Some teams this year are also visiting residents at The Foundry Treatment Center, and the organization has plans to begin visiting Rollingstone Respite House to see hospice patients.

“It is very fulfilling work to see what your pet, your partner, can help do to ease the pain of someone who is frightened or scared,” said Jim Stimson, Heeling Friends executive director.

Heeling Friends will hold a spring recruit to attract new teams beginning with an information session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb.7 for people to learn more about the program.

Training for those interested in joining will take place beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 and Thursday, Feb. 9.

Both people and pets are expected to attend each event.

Stimson, who participates with his golden retriever Martha said teams have benefitted from visiting with people from various backgrounds, including residents at The Foundry.

“The people at The Foundry are in very serious points in their lives, and many are there for a long time, 90 days, so they do things to keep them engaged and happy and strong,” Stimson said. “It’s been very fulfilling for us, and we hope and think for them.”

Those interested in joining Heeling Friends can expect to pay about $200 in their first year for the cost of training, certification and other items and then pay an annual fee of $50 in future years to continue with the program.

For more information, email

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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