About Us

Pets on Wheels is a nonprofit volunteer organization which provides friendly visits from volunteers and their pets to those requiring the support of an institutional setting. Visits are most often to nursing homes; however assisted living communities, hospitals, and facilities for the physically and mentally challenged are also recipients of our visits. More recently veterans' hospitals, homeless and domestic violence shelters, teen diversion programs, substance abuse facilities, incarcerational settings, programs for the homeless and children at risk of home out placement, stress free zones at local colleges during exam time, and libraries to help promote learning to read have also been added to our visits.

Our emphasis is on residents who have been unresponsive to ongoing activities. Many of these patients have impaired cognitive abilities due to specific illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and react to animals with more awareness than to people around them. For instance, repetitive speech behavior or annoying mannerism may cease while a patient is petting an animal. More than half of all nursing home residents have no relationships with their relatives, and five percent receive visits less than once a week. It is a very lonely existence. Pets act as intermediaries; they assist in "breaking the ice" when strangers meet. Ideally, a close three-way bond forms between the resident, the pet, and the volunteer. Pets love unconditionally even when a person is no longer attractive, even-tempered, or agile. Their warmth makes a difference to those they visit.

Volunteers and nursing home staff have concluded that even the most depressed and withdrawn residents will eventually respond to an animal's attention. They wait expectantly for the team to arrive and frequently will remember the pet's name. Residents are helped to remember a time when their lives were different than they now are. Visits by a pet team relieve the boredom, which many residents face each day, particularly those unable to leave their beds or rooms to participate in other activities. Depressed or uncommunicative residents have become enthusiastic and talkative in the presence of an animal. Pets on Wheels visits add value and increased quality to many lives, as the pet and the volunteer see beyond the outward appearance to the heart of the person. Pets on Wheels is a program that makes a difference.

Dr. Frank Folke Furstenberg, a retired allergist and Sinai Hospital physician founded Pets on Wheels in Baltimore, in May 1982. Originally the program was meant to measure the effectiveness of pet visitation on shut-ins, with four volunteer teams visiting four nursing homes. Dr. Furstenberg noted that the stimulation of playing with animals benefited the patients by getting them back to a higher quality of behavior.

The Pets on Wheels program was originally started as part of the Baltimore City Department of Aging. In the late 80s, the department established Pets on Wheels as a separate 501(c)3. At this time, Pets on Wheels established a Board of Directors and hired the first Program Director. The first funding came from the City and initially the program only serviced Baltimore City. The Board made a strategic decision to expand the program through out the state. Due to the limited resources at the time the expansion of the program was done one County at a time.

We now have weekly visitations by more than 400 teams in fourteen Maryland counties and regions which span the entire western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Pets on Wheels continues to "talk, bark, and meow" its way into the lives of thousands of lonely Maryland residents.

Please visit our testimonials page for reviews from some of those facilities and organizations we have worked with.

Pets on Wheels is a 501c3 organization and our federal ID # is 52-1657528.

What is a therapy dog?

A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily.

A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there. Many dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audience or by playing carefully structured games. In hospice environments, therapy dogs can play a role in palliative care by reducing death anxiety. (Excerpt taken from Wikipedia)


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