Leaving their footprints on the hearts and souls of patients in hospitals and care centers in the Manteca community is what “Paws for Friends” is all about.
Paws organizer Laura Francis said the 25 members of her group and their service dogs have made a difference in the lives of many shut-ins and young students in the area.
Five are now involved in the visitation program and six are waiting to go through the necessary orientation prior to actually visiting patients in their rooms.
Once a week – rotating between Tuesdays and Thursdays – the tail-wagging service dogs do their best to bring smiles to the faces of patients at Doctors Hospital of Manteca. On Mondays they visit the Manteca Care and Rehab facility on Eastwood Avenue.
“That is our members’ favorite place to go,” Francis said, because the permanent patients there so look forward to the dogs’ visits even if it is for only a short time.
The dogs visit the Lathrop Kids’ Club reading program every other Wednesday where they are used to enhance the reading skills in the kindergarten program with 12 children in the class.
Paws for Reading at the Manteca Library is another step in the series Francis and her group have put together for the benefit of the community. They visit the Commons at Union Ranch retirement center every other Wednesday afternoon to add spirit to the lives of the retirees.
Francis has served as a teacher’s assistant in an autism class for the last 11 years in San Joaquin County working in a first grade class at Traina School in Tracy.
She said her program is all volunteers with a goal toward becoming a non-profit.
“It’s our members that make the program possible – without them I couldn’t do it,” she said. In the past they have worked with students at Golden West and French Camp schools. In Tracy, where they are currently based, the dogs have to be READ certified. READ stands for reading education assisted dogs.