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    ‘Angel on a Leash’ brings canine relief

    by Joan Hellyer

    “Angel on a Leash” team members are ready to pay a visit to area schools, nursing homes and other community-based sites in Bucks County to share their joy and loving ways with others.

    “The main thing is about the people we visit and the dogs,” said Bob Wharton, a co-president of the group. “We like to share our dogs with them and make them happy.” 

    The group is striving to create the best therapy dog program in health care facilities and other settings across the country, according to the organization’s mission statement.

    The Bucks County-based organization has got what it takes to achieve its goal, according to Christine Tentilucci, a Philanthropy Associate and Volunteer Coordinator at Chandler Hall Health Services in Newtown Township.

    Christine sees the group’s work firsthand each time dog handler Linda Somers and her Doberman, named “Jack,” make the rounds on the Chandler campus.

    “They visit weekly, stroll through the community, and stop to interact with the residents who may be in their rooms or gathered in common areas,” Christine said. “(Jack) is a delight. Our residents, and staff, really enjoy Jack’s calm and healing presence. There are many smiles on faces when a pet visits at Chandler Hall.”

    “Angel on a Leash” is a reboot of a national therapy dog group David Frei originally founded in 2004. 

    David is a nationally well-known canine breeder-owner-handler and dog show judge.

    The original group disbanded in 2016.

    Local dog therapy advocates including Wharton and Steven Kramer, a friend of Frei’s, joined forces in 2019 to re-establish the organization. Frei is a member of the group’s board of directors, said Wharton, who serves as co-president of the group with Kramer.

    The re-established group already has more than 60 dog handler teams ready and able to serve in the community, Wharton said.

    The teams consist of human handlers and canines of various breeds. They are from towns throughout Bucks County, New Jersey and Wilkes-Barre in northern Pennsylvania. 

    “Angel on a Leash” continues to recruit more teams to visit a group, school or nursing home.

    To qualify, the dog must have a good temperament, Wharton said.

    The animal also must have earned a “Canine Good Citizenship” title from the American Kennel Club to be able to join the group, he said.

    The canine also has to take a therapy dog test to see how they respond to different things, Wharton said.

    If they pass all the checkpoints they are certified as “Angel on a Leash” therapy dogs. 

    The group is recruiting locally and expects to begin adding chapters from other parts of the country beginning later this year to work toward fulfilling its mission statement.

    Call 215-478-6762 or visit www.facebook.com/skramer.aoal/ for information on how to become an “Angel on a Leash” member or to schedule one of the group’s dog handler teams to visit your school, nursing facility or other site out in the community. 

    PHOTO CAP: Archie, a member of the “Angel on a Leash” squad.