Ron Leonard says his dog Molly understands the need for comfort.
“She was left out in 18-degree weather and left to die with her mama,” he said.
But someone got them to a shelter and that’s where Leonard met her, adopted her and gave her the opportunity to start comforting others.
Molly now serves as a therapy dog through Canines for Christ.
“She’s made more than 4,000 visits,” said Leonard, who serves as a chaplain and vice president of operations for Canines for Christ. “She’s trained to work with our law enforcement first responders and 911 dispatchers when an officer goes down in the line of duty.”
What Molly offers is a “ministry of presence,” he said. “We just let the dog be the dog. The vest says it all. It’s good for her to just be there and love on people.”
Canines for Christ is often called in to respond after natural disasters, school shootings and other tragedies. They’re also able to go into nursing homes and other places where people might need extra love.
And during each visit Leonard, a member of Victory Baptist Church, Mount Juliet, Tennessee, is able to share how God came down and rescued us just like Leonard rescued Molly.
“When a person gets involved as a Canines for Christ volunteer, we just encourage them to get involved with what God is already doing, where He is already at work,” he said.
Started in 2007, Canines for Christ now has more than 1,000 therapy dogs and 900 volunteers in 35 states and four foreign countries. Some of those live in Alabama, including Patty Johnston.
“I had been given a little Cavalier King Charles spaniel that was blind in one eye,” said Johnston, who lives in Saraland. “Through that dog God birthed in me the idea to do pet therapy. With him having a disability I knew he could minister to others.”
That spark ignited a passion and Johnston got three golden retrievers she trained to be therapy dogs.
‘Go where God opens doors’
“We just go where God opens the doors,” she said. “It brings people such joy. There’s just something about a dog’s love that can be an example of God’s unconditional love to people.”
To become a Canines for Christ volunteer visit the organization’s website and check out the step-by-step instructions. Dogs must be good with people, especially children, and not have ever bitten anyone, Leonard said. During the application process your dog will need a veterinarian’s clearance, will get American Kennel Club certification and will be insured with liability insurance through the ministry.
For more information, visit k9forchrist.org. (Grace Thornton)