Story: American Red Cross Volunteer and her Therapy Dog Support Disabled Veterans and Their Families

This story is written by Red Cross volunteer in Public Affairs Allen Crabtree.
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The American Red Cross has provided support to our military and their families throughout its history as a key part of its mission to serve the American people.  No matter what time of day, any day of the year, the Red Cross quickly sends emergency communications to deployed service members on behalf of their family during a crisis, provides access to financial assistance in partnership with the military aid societies, information and referral and assistance to veterans.

There is another aspect of the Red Cross’ support to the military that is not widely known – the Red Cross partnership to make available pet therapy animals that visit military hospitals to help the healing process for disabled veterans and their families. There are thousands of active duty and retired military personnel and their families living in theColorado Springsarea, and the Red Cross has three pet therapy teams with trained Red Cross volunteers and Certified Registered Therapy Pets that work in the area.  These teams are sent to military installations, hospitals and clinics in and aroundFortCarson.

Thea Wasche has been a Red Cross volunteer for three years and is the handler and owner of Lacey, a six-year old Golden Retriever Registered Therapy Dog.   “I received Lacey when she was about two years old,” she said.  “Lacey and I have been certified by the rigorous Delta Society training program for therapy dogs, and I have been fully trained by the Red Cross.”

Wasche is a thirty-year civil servant veteran and has been around the military her entire adult life.  She now assigned to Schriever Air Force Base, so she is no stranger to the military.

“Lacey and I visit theEvansArmyCommunityHospitalatFortCarsonevery Saturday,” said Wasche.  “Lacey interacts with the disabled veterans in the patient wards.  It is wonderful to see how they react to her gentle approach and demeanor.  For many, it is the first reaching out that they have done as part of their rehabilitation program.”

Wasche and Lacey also visit outpatient clinics to support veterans receiving physical therapy and other services, and represent the Red Cross when they with the children, families and friends of fallen soldiers as part of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).

The American Red Cross has strict training and certification requirements for all therapy pets and their handlers before they are allowed to represent the Red Cross and provide their needed humanitarian healing services to these important military programs or other Red Cross activities.

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