Photography by Sarah Oden
Fellow Arkansans – neighbors, colleagues and friends – are sharing a light of peace, kindness and generosity that makes The Natural State a little brighter. Inviting Arkansas and Methodist Family Health celebrate individuals who illuminate our community with goodness. Nominate someone today for a future feature that SHINES.
When the Inviting Arkansas team arrived at Margaret Strickland’s Hillcrest home, Winston and Augie, two spunky dachshunds, greeted us at the door. An office of “dog people,” their enthusiasm matched our excitement for a morning filled with furry friends. The Stricklands escorted us to their backyard oasis for a playful shoot filled with lots of licks and laughs.
It was no surprise these dachshunds were perfect gentlemen. Margaret volunteers for countless organizations with Winston and Augie as registered therapy dog through Central Arkansas Pet Partners. Margaret and Winston were initially introduced to the program by friend and fellow therapy dog handler Marion Berry. “She recognized qualities in him that are inherent in good therapy dogs – a dog who loves people, is sensitive to their emotions and matches his energy level to people around him. She told me that he would be a good therapy dog. I was an empty nester and close to retirement, so I jumped in.”
Now, Margaret and the dynamic dachshund duo are registered with Central Arkansas Pet Partners. To become accredited with CAPP, owner and companion must complete animal assisted intervention training – basic obedience skills as well as basic handling and regulations. As a qualified CAPP therapy team, CAPP connects organizations with these pet therapy services. “Central Arkansas Pet Partners provides support to facilities that utilize therapy animals. Hospitals in this area only allow therapy dogs but Central Arkansas Pet Partners also registers cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas, birds, miniature pigs and even rats!” Margaret continues, “This group provides support through education, mentoring, development and maintaining relationships. Solid scientific research shows the benefits for individuals receiving pet therapy.”
Margaret recognizes the transformative power of pet therapy and supports CAPP through service on the board of directors as well as with evaluations and mentoring new therapy teams. Additionally, she volunteers with pet therapy programs at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s, Pulaski County Juvenile Detention and Methodist Family Health. “Before COVID, I was averaging three visits each week. As facilities are safely re-opening, I anticipate becoming more active very soon.”
Margaret excitedly awaits the return of regular visits. An advocate for this type of therapy, she shares an anecdote of the impact it has. “I have a soft spot in my heart for the kids in the Methodist Family Health residential program. Each of them is going through a challenging time and they are working hard to improve their lives.” She emphasizes, “Methodist Family Health really cares that the kids are developing skills in self-restraint, taking turns, kindness, conversational skills and manners – all while having good fun playing with a dog.” Margaret and her two amazing animals find just as much reward and joy during these times in the community. “If my dogs and I can put smiles on faces for even a short time then it is totally my honor to volunteer.”
Sponsored by Methodist Family Health
Nominations accepted at Foundation@MethodistFamily.org
methodistfamily.org | #ShareTheLightandSHINE