Angels on a Leash is a non-profit therapy dog organization based out of Richboro, where President Bob Wharton resides.
They currently have 70 members and dogs, known as champion teams, that help younger students learn how to read, college students relax during finals, and bring smiles to seniors at assisted living and memory facilities.
They have been serving the Bucks County community since 2019. One of their signature performances is the “Canine Circus.”
According to Bob, “We will perform for the residents outside. The dogs will perform agility, nose work and tricks. Then we will have a canine circus parade where the dogs are dressed-up in a circus theme. The dogs will then march in a circus parade where they are announced as performers, such as my dog, Daredevil Action Jackson. Finally, the dogs will do a meet and greet with the audience. Residents ask us questions about the dogs and they reminisce about times when they had dogs.”
This is key according to Bob. “If we can put a smile on someone’s face, it is all worth it!”
And they always do, doing the invaluable work of helping seniors connect with the outside community.
“We make it a lot of fun for the residents…”
Education is another major function of Angel on a Leash’s therapy dogs.
“We go to local elementary schools, where first graders read aloud to the therapy dogs. This is important, because many beginning readers are shy about reading aloud, but they relax and do it when they have the opportunity to read to one of our dogs. We also take our therapy dogs to local colleges and universities. The students play with the dogs during exam week and it really helps them to relax for taking finals.
Operating Under Covid-19 Conditions
Covid presented a challenge for doing these activities, but Angels on a Leash was up to the challenge according to Bob.
“During the Covid lockdown, we used video conferencing software to reach out to isolated seniors whose families were not allowed to visit them. We used Zoom and Microsoft Teams and our handlers and dogs would virtually broadcast from home. Nurses or workers would facilitate taking the laptop to each senior’s room so that our dogs and their owners could communicate with the residents. Our teams talked to the residents and answered questions.”
With elementary schools being closed down and students learning virtually from home, Bob wrote a children’s book about his dog and sent it electronically to the same first graders Angels on a Leash would visit before the lockdown.
”The book was called ‘Jackson’s Dream’ after my Golden Retriever, Jackson. It was about Jackson being a puppy and dreaming about being a therapy dog with all of the ups and downs of the process…I sent it to first graders from a local school in Yardley who were learning remotely at home, so they could read it with their families.”
“In 2020, Jackson won the American Kennel Club, Paw of Courage Award. He was given that award for his work during Covid. The award was given to only three therapy dogs in the entire country.”
There is a champion team that started a Facebook Page called ‘Lucy’s Library.’ They have virtual reading events where they help bring smiles and literacy to children. Josephine DeAngelis and her dog, Lucy, broadcast once a week for children and their parents to view.
According to Bob, Angel on a Leash’s main fundraiser is their Angel on a Leash Dog Walk.
“Due to Covid restrictions, we did a virtual dog walk in 2020 for our first annual event. Our champion teams are sponsored by organizations, locations we visit and friends of teams. We will have a live walk this year that will be held at the Falls Township Community Park on October 16th from 10:00am to 3:00pm.”
There will be a virtual component to the walk for those restricted by Covid.
“If someone purchases a ticket who wants to participate virtually, we will send a tee-shirt out to them and produce a video of them walking their dog. We will post it on our web and Facebook page.
If anyone would like information about the Dog Walk you can view information and purchase tickets on their website, angelonaleash.net.
Or call them at 215-478-6762.
PHOTO CAP: Michelle Clark, of Ottsville, with “Ring Master Cubbie” (Shetland Sheepdog) at a recent Canine Circus event.