Dog lovers can help
local organization earn national recognition
Blair | Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012 5:21 pm
WALLINGFORD - Dog lovers can nominate a therapy dog
of their choice for a national award while also helping out a local non-profit
Soul Friends, Inc., a Wallingford-based
pet therapy organization which specializes in helping children, was chosen as
one of the charity partners for the American Humane Association Hero Dog
"About 18 months ago I had a conversation
with someone from the American Humane Association about pet therapy in general,"
said Kate Nicoll, founder and CEO of Soul Friends. "When it came time to pick a
charity partner, they must have remembered that conversation. It's an honor to
Users can log on to www.herodogawards.org to nominate pets in a variety of
categories; Nicoll is listed under the therapy dogs
category. If a dog nominated under Nicoll's charity reaches the finals, the
charity will get $5,000. If the dog wins the grand prize, Soul Friends will get
an additional $10,000.
"We're looking to do more research,"
Nicoll said. "We want to boost our efforts to do research and
Nicoll said that currently, the only grant
funding Soul Friends has is a small grant from the Petit Family Foundation for
an equine therapy program. Being listed in the contest will help her get some
national exposure, she said.
Maria Nuzzillio, a board member at Soul
Friends, said the work Nicoll does is extremely valuable.
"When you see the kid's faces light up
when they see the pet they work with, it's very touching," she
Nicoll said the bonds that the clients
build with the animals help them to overcome their own struggles. She nominated
Muffin, one of the service dogs who works for Soul
Friends, for the award. Muffin, a 9-year-old terrier mix, recently went blind
but has continued her work.
"She rolls over, she sniffs, wags her
tail," Nicoll said. "They get a sense of empathy with her, they give her a lot of love."
Nuzzillio said Muffin's story was
"It shows that if you do have a handicap,
you can still make a difference," she said. "This dog is totally blind, yet it
brings comfort to a child. It's beautiful."
Nicoll said it was symbolic that one of
her clients was recently guiding Muffin through the office, reciprocating the
help that he had received.
Muffin has helped "over 4,500 children
living with loss, trauma, grief and social-emotional challenges," according to
Nominations for the Hero Dog Awards are
open through the end of March 26. The nomination consists of basic information,
a photo and a short write-up about the dog. Voting, by the general public,
begins on April 1 on www.herodogawards.org.
Finalists will travel to Los
Angeles in October for the finals which will air on the