AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's been a year since Kaxan showed up on KXAN's doorstep. He's gone through a lot and now has a new job as a therapy pup.
When Kaxan first arrived at the station as a runaway, he lacked discipline and felt free to bolt whenever he pleased -- leash or no leash, supervision or no supervision. Since then, trainer Edward Flores has worked hard with Kaxan to get him ready to help people.
This week was Kaxan's first visit to Southwood Care Center. Kathy Grosch, deputy director with Therapy Pet Pals of Texas, said the help dogs like Kaxan can make a huge difference for people in difficult situations.
"There are so many people out there who've outlived their friends and family and don't have lot of visitors," said Grosch.
For nearly 30 years, Therapy Pet Pals of Texas has stepped in to fill that void. More than 200 volunteers visit 90 healthcare facilities around Austin. Many more are on the waiting list.
"One of the really sad things is that so many people going into the nursing home have to give up their pet," said Grosch.
"To take a dog in, we want people to understand that it's a vital, vital necessity for happiness," said Kathryn Lashmit, executive director Therapy Pet Pals of Texas. "It dispels loneliness if just for a short while."
There's a need for more trained volunteer dog/owner teams.
"We get questions all the time," said Sharon Hehmsoth, volunteer with Therapy Pet Pals of Texas. "Why do you do this? Why would you want to do this? We get so much more out of it than we give."
Hehmsoth was on hand with Kaxan to evaluate his work. He passed with flying colors. Size and breed rarely matter with therapy work, but temperament, the dog's personality, is key.
"You can't train temperament," said Grosch. "It's the way the dog comes. Most dogs that are obedient to their owner, love people and have a good temperament would make good therapy dogs."
New volunteers go through a pre-screening, must have up to date health records, and must attend a training session before their work can start.
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