KSLA Salutes: Therapy dogs are back on BAFB
cBAFB, La. (KSLA) - As COVID guidelines continue to be relaxed, Barksdale is again allowing therapy dogs back on the base.
“We bring our dogs to spread joy,” Janet Harriss, one of the therapy dog handlers, said. “They love to be pet and bring happiness to everybody. We actually get to be with them now.”
A group of several therapy dogs and their handlers have been coming on base for the last few years for a multitude of events, including to assist SAPR, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program.
“I’m a part of the original group that came on base,” Harriss said. “We’ve been doing this for about four or five years before COVID hit. We come to a number of things on base and sometimes even visit work groups to let them know how much we appreciate them and what they are doing by serving our country. We go to SAPR events and will be there if a survivor just wants a dog there. We also come to events on base for children, Halloween parties, Christmas parties. We are available whenever someone on the base needs us. We want to be there for them and make their day just a little bit better.”
At the beginning of April, Barksdale and SAPR held a joint proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month along with a 5k. The therapy dogs were brought back on base for the first time since the pandemic began.
“We were so excited to be back,” Harriss said. “We have been staying at home for the last year like most people. My dog Remi, he’s had trouble because he hasn’t been able to visit anyone. For us it’s like being free again and it’s such a wonderful feeling of joy to see people smile. I think with what’s going on right now it’s just very important for us to be out here to help make everyone’s day just a little bit better. We are so thrilled to be back.”
Harriss says she and the other handlers are thankful to the airmen on base and are grateful to show their appreciation by hopefully making someone’s day when they see the therapy dogs.
“What happens is you see someone when we walk up with all different kinds and sizes of dogs, they will start smiling, laughing, come over to look at the dogs, some will ask me if my dog is a bear. You can sometimes see a feeling of relief. Even if someone is having a bad day it just makes you happy again seeing the dogs. That’s why we love to do it. It’s the most amazing thing if you have a therapy dog and you make a better day for someone. I feel like I get more out of it than anyone else. It just fills you with joy,” said Harriss.
The therapy dogs were back on base to wrap up Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Misty Talley is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for SAPR.
“We kicked off the month with a proclamation signing and the 5K run,” Talley said. “We had well over 100 participants with that. We did ‘paint with a teal twist’ with our teal ribbon and the B52′s. We held a scavenger hunt to all of our support agencies around the base. We are ending the month by honoring our survivors with a march and Take Back the Night event.”
Talley says the therapy dogs provide a lot of support through their program.
“We love our puppies,” Talley said. “We love our therapy dogs. They really bring a lot of support and help to survivors. For some, their support is their family pet. When you have young folks far away from home, maybe their apartment or dorm doesn’t allow pets. Sometimes this is their connection to home. The dogs love you unconditionally and sometimes you just need them to pant, drool on you a little bit and it allows the person to just pet and love on them a little bit. It is an incredible program and we are so thankful to have them back here.”
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