There’s just about nothing sweeter or more comforting than nuzzling up with a gentle animal, right?
Well, that’s exactly what Lyndi Hanna, owner and founder of Annie’s Therapeutic Companions delivers, along with her two teams of handlers who own and are training their dogs.
The star of the show at Annie’s is without question three-year old Annie, Hanna’s beautiful Australian Shepherd after which the organization is named.
Hanna loves old Western movies and the Old West in general, so when she got Annie as a puppy without a name in 2013, she named her after famous Old West shooter, “Little Sure Shot,” Annie Oakley.
When they visited the E-T offices for this interview, Annie was a real charmer, almost shutting the place completely down for a while because everyone wanted to hug and pet her, something she obviously enjoys as much humans do.
“I also have two miniature horses we take out when it’s appropriate. The kids really love it and so do the horses,” Hanna said.
To be specific, Annie’s makes special visits to hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation facilities, senior living/assisted living, veterans services, disaster shelters, schools, special needs classes in schools, and occupational therapy facilities that work with special needs children in the area.
Annie's Therapeutic Companions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer-based organization consisting of Pet Partners certified Animal Assisted Therapy teams, based out of Dublin, Texas. Pet Partners, Hanna says, is the leading national nonprofit organization for Animal Assisted Activities/Therapy [www.PetPartners.org].
By way of her personal background, Hanna says she was heavily involved with horses in 4-H, got her first horses as a young teenager and began training them herself. Her love of horses led her to study for, and receive a degree at Weatherford College in Equine Management and Reproduction.
“Our organization is run by volunteers who own and train their animals, who freely give of their time and as such our organization does not charge any facility we visit for our services,“ Hanna says.
“Within our teams, each animal has passed a rigorous Pet Partners test of obedience and willingness to serve. Each handler has passed a thorough Pet Partners evaluation of effective communication, professionalism, and are found capable to work with and guide their animals in various situations. We currently have teams in training with the mindset of joining Pet Partners in the future.”
There‘s also a section on the “Education” page of the Annie’s website that will answer more questions about becoming involved with Animal Assisted Therapy.
Hanna says potential volunteers who might be interested in training their dogs in this line of work are more than welcome.
“I’d love to have two more people join us. It’s very focused and takes months to get licensed, and of course the dog has to have a certain kind of temperament. But It’s extremely rewarding work, obviously and so worth the effort. I’m certainly willing to talk to someone who’d like to find out more,” Hanna says.
Since she’s always on the go – “I pretty much live in my truck,” she says with a laugh – the best way to contact her is on the website at www. AnniesTheraputicCompanions.org or through the Facebook page.
“Phoning is not the best option,” Hanna says, “because I don’t pick up when I’m working at a facility and I’m sometimes at the hospital – Texas Health Harris Methodist – until midnight.
“And when I’m at Central Elementary School, I obviously don’t want to take calls in a classroom. So it’s best just to go to the website and click on ‘Contact’ and send me an email. When I am able to, I will call or text back as soon as possible,” she says.
Asked about taking donations Hanna replies with a laugh, “Oh, yes! We’ll be happy to do that! And now that we’re a non-profit, donations are tax-deductible. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money; we can also use dog food, grooming supplies, things like that.”
Oh, and by the way, the “Donate” button is right above the “Contact” button on the Annie’s site.