Good Works Pets on Wheels Puts Smiles on Faces

Laura Ehrlich, 94, smiled with delight when she saw Kelly walking past her chair in the North Oaks retirement community in Pikesville.

“Hi there, Kelly,” she said. “Hi there, girl.”

Bunny and Mike Roseman patted Kelly on the head and greeted her happily.

Kelly isn’t a grandchild of one of the residents, nor is she a resident, relative or employee. Kelly is a dog.

“When she comes to visit, it’s like a child coming to see you,” Ehrlich said. “She shows affection, she shows love. Just look at the way her tail goes back and forth, she’s so happy to see us. She’s so affectionate, it’s just lovely.”

Kelly is a therapy dog with the Maryland nonprofit Pets on Wheels. Since she qualified for the program four years ago, she and owner Steve Lesser have been visiting North Oaks weekly, among other locations, donating their time and love.

The nonprofit, which dates to 1982, provides pet therapy for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals, said executive director Pat Pawloski.

“It’s a service that’s not invasive, as far as medicine is concerned, but that has some real health benefits,” said Pawloski, who cited lowered blood pressure, decreased stress levels and improved emotional wellbeing as examples.

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