Dine with Your Dog event benefits hospital pet therapy program - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Dine with Your Dog event benefits hospital pet therapy program

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Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 3:20 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.

Ever feel guilty about leaving your dog at home while you enjoy a fancy dinner?

Dog owners can soon wine and dine with their pups in tow at the fourth annual charity event, Dine with Your Dog.

Emceed by Pat McMahon in central Phoenix, the event will include a gourmet dinner with wine (for humans), a gourmet canine dinner, a raffle and other dog-related activities, including a fashion show.

All proceeds will benefit the Pet Therapy Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

The Pet Therapy Program is a troupe of 40 certified trained dogs and their owners, who provide the pets to patients for therapeutic needs.

"The interaction between a dog and a child is a wonder to behold," said Julie Adams, founder of Dine with Your Dog.

A 4-year-old Shih Tzu named Tiger is one of those 40 therapy givers, and he visits patients nearly every day.

Tiger, who lives in Ahwatukee Foothills, stands a mere 9 or so inches from the ground, is extremely gentle and well behaved.

Tiger is so attentive to his owner, he can even bark on command.

"Tiger allocates a very small area," said Tiger's owner George Rivaldo, 68, about the benefit of having a smaller dog in the program. "If you bring a dog close to a child, the response is much more dramatic."

As for the therapy, Rivaldo said they can wipe out a negative environment for the child, allowing them to focus on petting a friendly dog instead of the pain or fear they may have.

Mentioning an unofficial motto, "It's all about the patient," Rivaldo credits the program's coordinator, Mary Lou Jennings, and her endless amount of hard work and empathy.

Adams said sometimes a sick patient won't even open their eyes when the dog and volunteer walk in, thinking it is a nurse or doctor to perform another painful procedure.

"By the time our visit is over, we get them out of bed and taking the dog for a walk along the hospital corridors," said Adams, who has been a volunteer herself for the past 15 years.

Adams added that the visits are important to the parents of child patients as well, and through tears, they tell them "this is the first time (my child) smiled since we got here."

Adams said she was motivated to start the event after feeling guilty about leaving her precious pooch at home while she went out to dinner.

"So just this once, we can take our best and loyal friend along," she said.

Tickets are $100 online for one dog and their well-behaved human friend. Tax-deductable sponsorship opportunities are also available at dinewithyourdog.org.

For more information, call Adams at (602) 944-9552. For information about the Pet Therapy Program, call Jennings at (602) 546-2136.

Diana Martinez is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.

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