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World's Largest Pet Walk this Saturday raising funds for animal therapy

Posted at 5:38 PM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-23 18:52:34-04

CLEVELAND — This Saturday is the 2022 World’s Largest Pet Walk. It is a signature fundraiser for animal therapy. Specifically, for Pet Partners, which is a national, registered animal-assisted therapy provider.

"She’s a big dog, 105 pounds," laughed Don Sendelbach, talking about his dog Casi, who is 105 pounds of pure love. The seven-year-old Newfoundland is a therapy dog. She and her handler, Sendelbach, of the Akron area, are a certified team through Pet Partners.

"People light up when a dog comes in the room,” he said. “Casi is a great therapy dog; she knows exactly how to respond to people.”

Sendelbach says he and Casi trained for 18 months for her to become a certified Pet-Partners therapy dog, with a re-evaluation every couple of years to stay in the program.

For almost seven years now, the pair have been visiting people in the hospital, in hospice care, and at funeral homes, providing comfort when it’s needed most.

He says every encounter is meaningful, but one specific visit is burned into his heart.

"There was an 8-year-old girl with cancer and only had a couple weeks left," recalled Sendelbach. "She just wanted Casi next to her. We were there about 45 minutes until she fell asleep, but she just held the dog and talked with the dog, and I could tell she forgot what was going on.”

There is a popular quote, "The road to my heart is paved with paw prints." It is a sentiment imprinted on Sendelbach’s s heart, and all the people he and Casi encounter.

"I do that with Casi,” he said. “We stop to say ‘hi’ to everyone because you never know how a chance conversation is going to change someone’s life.”

Looking at Casi's sweet face and feeling her loving disposition is healing. And, when you’re feeling your worst and facing something scary, who wouldn’t love a big, cozy dog to cuddle up with and help you feel better?

It is easy to take part in Saturday's Pet Walk which supports pet therapy programs that also help patients during recovery, those with intellectual disabilities, seniors living with Alzheimer’s Disease, students, veterans, people who have experienced crisis events, and those approaching end of life. The nonprofit hopes to raise more than $100,000 nationwide.

Learn more about the event and pet therapy programs here.

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