Saunders County Lost Pets is an all-volunteer non-profit that offers a unique opportunity for volunteers to help both animals and the community through pet therapy.
SCLP grew from Wilcox’s personal loss. The family had removed part of their fence to lay down some sod in their yard. Two of their Labrador retrievers were in the yard with them and took off. Wilcox looked for them for years, even driving around to other agencies for months and months, but she never found her dogs.
“Before that day, I had never given any thought to homeless pets or strays,” Wilcox said. “I hated what had happened in my life and I desperately wanted to change my circumstances. I couldn’t do that, but I could help the dogs that needed help, and so I started finding homes for them.
Since Deb Wilcox started Saunders County Lost Pets in 2005, her non-profit has placed about 110 dogs on an average in adoptive homes. SCLP offers abundant opportunities to volunteers such as kennel cleaning, kennel sitting, walking dogs, feeding dogs and cats, fostering pets, and pet therapy.
DEBORAH: SCLP is an all-volunteer organization. We offer pet therapy when we have volunteers available and when requested by a facility or school. We have done pet therapy off and on over the last several years.
ALLISON: What are the most typical places SCLP has done pet therapy?
DEBORAH: Schools and senior living centers are the most common.
ALLISON: How often do therapy visits happen? How long is each visit? What do visits consist of?
DEBORAH: We don’t have a regular schedule right now. A pet therapy team goes whenever a facility contacts SCLP or if we see a need in the community. We generally stay for half an hour to an hour.
ALLISON: How many volunteers on average participate in pet therapy?
DEBORAH: Two on average. Although once when our local elementary school suffered the tragic loss of a student there were eight puppies and eight volunteers from SCLP that took the puppies to the school. Watching the puppies bring smiles to the kids that were hurting was an amazing experience and one I will never forget.
DEBORAH: I generally pick the pets that I think to be well adjusted and can handle the level of activity involved. I send them with an experienced volunteer team.
ALLISON: What kind of SCLP animals have been good candidates?
DEBORAH: Puppies and kitties are generally good candidates. With older dogs and cats, it depends mostly upon their disposition and acceptance of new things and people.
ALLISON: If another rescue/shelter were interested in starting a pet therapy program, what recommendations would you give?
DEBORAH: An organization needs to understand basic knowledge of pets and a good understanding of pet dispositions and body language.
ALLISON: What are the benefits of such a program to a rescue and to the community?
DEBORAH: The benefits are great to the people doing the therapy and to the recipients. Watching people open up to the unconditional love that a pet offers is such a beautiful and emotional experience.