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Disabled Rescue Dogs Pay It Forward As Therapy Pets

The DAWGS (Disabled Animals Who Generously Serve) of Dharma Rescue in Torrance, California are on a mission to comfort, entertain and inspire humans with their strength and perseverance.

Each was pulled from a high-kill shelter where their medical needs made adoption unlikely. Trained as therapy dogs, they’re spreading the love to nursing home patients and school children.

The innovative idea for the DAWGS Program came to Dharma Rescue founder, Susan Fulcher after years of rescuing and fostering California’s forgotten pets. She found that the senior and disabled dogs who are ignored by most adopters have an incredible amount of love to give – and a lesson or two to teach.

Little girls from Dance Moms.

Posted by Dharma Rescue on Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fulcher was a professional pet groomer for more than 40 years before becoming heavily involved with rescue work. She found that the older pets, the ones with medical issues, and those who had suffered abuse and neglect inspired her most of all.

She discussed her motivation for creating Dharma Rescue’s therapy ambassa-dog program with People Pets:

“Taking these dogs where their past is just the worst, in situation where they would die without this, and they come into this new world and new life, where they are loved and groomed and get to go out … It’s just in their eyes when they look at you, like they didn’t know that this is what life could be like,”

At the beach

Posted by Dharma Rescue on Sunday, June 5, 2016

It was a scruffy little terrier named Joey who first gave Fulcher the idea of involving her special dogs in therapy work. Joey had been hit by a car and required a custom wheelchair to get around. After bouncing from shelter to shelter to avoid euthanasia, he was placed in foster care before eventually ending up at Dharma Rescue.

There was just a certain spark in Joey’s bright brown eyes that spoke to Fulcher. She knew he was destined for greater things. She enrolled him in obedience classes which he easily mastered. Next it was on to advanced training and certification through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

The process of obtaining official therapy dog certification can be long and rigorous, but Dharma Rescue is proud to have several graduates. During an average day, this band of handi-capable cuties may visit the residents at a nursing home, stop in to a local school to teach the children about tolerance and diversity, or swing by LAX Airport to sooth frazzled travelers.

Fulcher’s goal is to place each pup with a loving, forever family of their own and continue to rescue others in need. She hopes that each adopter will continue with the dogs’ therapy work – something that is so rewarding for the pets and the people they help.

Princess of the sea

Posted by Dharma Rescue on Sunday, June 5, 2016

Many folks feel sorry for the DAWGS at first glance, but soon come to see that their differences do not slow them down one bit. Fulcher hopes that her little group of heroes will inspire more pet lovers to give disabled and senior dogs a chance.


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Written by Dina Fantegrossi
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