Nine-year-old Bella and her eight-year-old sister Sofia leave a path of smiles as they work the lobby of the Invictus Games hub — the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. The pair garner almost as much excitement as Prince Harry, but for different reasons, of course. The two perfectly coiffed Yorkshire terriers are cradled in a football hold in the arms of their handlers Jan Triggs and Larry Shack.
Therapy dogs Sofia and Bella.
Sofia and Bella are mild-mannered family dogs who volunteer in their spare time with the St. John Ambulance (SJA) Therapy Dog Program. They regularly visit the sick, elderly and lonely. This week, they’re part of a program that’s providing 86 therapy dogs — ranging in size and breed from Bernese mountain dogs to the littlest Yorkies — to competitors of the 2017 Invictus Games.
“What the dogs have brought is the realization that [the competitors] miss their own dogs,” said Larry. “But is also gives a sense of calmness for the athletes.”
In her three years of dog handling, Jan said the Invictus Games — especially the Opening Ceremony — was the highlight of her volunteer career with therapy dogs. “[The Opening Ceremony] was really, truly magical to see the athletes, particularly with those suffering with PTSD, comforted by a visit from the therapy dogs.”.
Therapy dogs pose for a photo.
Therapy dogs have been warming hearts at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, High Park and the Air Canada Centre during the Games.
For more information on the SJA Therapy Dog Program, visit sja.ca.