CFTS Teams love to visit elementary schools.

What is CFTS (Companions for the Soul) all about? Companions for the Soul's quest is to improve the quality of life of animals and people in need: children, seniors, veterans, and families through innovative programs including Animal Assisted Therapy. LOVE HAPPENS!

Bay Area High Schools Dance for OUR CFTS STARS


Claudia & Teddy, visiting a group of Pre K students.

What Is Animal Assisted Therapy?

An Animal Assisted Therapy animal refers to an animal trained to provide affection and comfort to people in a variety of settings. Animal-assisted therapy (AAT), also known as pet assisted therapy (PAT), utilizes trained animals and handlers to achieve specific physical, social, cognitive, and emotional goals.


Therapy animals and their curing power have been documented across the centuries. In 900 B.C. Homer wrote about the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. It was said Asclepius had a divine healing power that was extended through animals, including sacred dogs.

The first recorded therapeutic use of animals was in Gheel, Belgium in the ninth century. To this day, learning to care for farm animals is still an important part of an assisted living program designed for people with disabilities in this remarkable farming town.

In 1796, the York Retreat in England founded by the Society of Friends (commonly known as the Quakers), by-passed the traditional treatment of the times. Patients at the York Retreat were taught to care for animals and work in the garden as part of their therapy treatment rather than use physical restraints and harsh drugs.

The American Red Cross utilized a form of Animal Therapy during World War I and II. During World War I American Red Cross nurses brought dogs to the Armed Forces Convalescent Center to be companions for servicemen who were patients at the center. In the 1940s, during World War II, the Army Air Corps hospital working with the Red Cross, permitted patients recovering from war injuries to work at the hospital’s farm in order to keep their minds off of war.

The concept of a trained therapy dog within medical facilities in the United States is often attributed to Elaine Smith, an American who worked as a registered nurse for a time in England. Smith noticed how well patients responded to visits by a certain chaplain and his canine companion, a Golden Retriever. Upon returning to the United States in 1976, Smith started a program for training dogs to visit institutions. P.A.T. programs were quick to follow. Groups such as the Delta Society and Intermountain Therapy serve as models for many of today’s P.A.T. programs.


“Make your passion your life’s work, your dreams your reality, focus on what you know is right and surround yourself with quality people who share your passion; collectively you will enhance the world” . . . . . gEmUSA

A.A.T. was brought to the west coast by two visionaries on separate but similar paths. In 1978 Ken White, with a long history of the Animal Assisted Therapy concept, brought the A.A.T. program to the San Francisco SPCA where he created the animal assisted therapy and humane education programs; winning one of the very first Delta Society model program awards for one of the first real programs in the nation. In 1991 Dr. Bonnie Bergin, the originator of the service dog concept, founded the Assistance Dog Institute in Northern California which continues to this day to develop innovate AAT programs and training.

Different Kind of Helper Dog

Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs directly assist humans, and have a legal right to accompany their owners in most areas. Most people are familiar with service dogs that assist their blind or otherwise disabled owners. Therapy dogs offer a different kind of help. Some pay informal social visits to people to boost their spirits, while others work in a more structured environment with trained professionals like physical therapists and social workers to help patients reach clinical goals, such as increased mobility or improved memory.
What are the benefits of PAT?

Studies on elderly nursing home patients now offer scientific support that brief weekly visits from man's best friend can have a positive therapeutic impact.


  • Improve fine motor skills.
  • Improve wheelchair skills.
  • Improve standing equilibrioception (balance).
  • Lower blood pressure, risk for stroke or heart attack.


A 2007 meta-analysis found that animal-assisted therapy is associated with moderate effect sizes in improving outcomes in autism spectrum symptoms, medical difficulties, behavioral problems, and emotional well-being.

  • Increase verbal interactions between group members.
  • Increase attention skills (paying attention, staying on task).
  • Develop leisure/recreation skills.
  • Increase self-esteem.
  • Reduce anxiety.
  • Reduce loneliness.


  • Increase vocabulary.
  • Aid in long- or short-term memory.
  • Knowledge of concepts, such as size, color, etc.


  • Improve willingness to be involved in a group activity.
  • Improve interactions with others.
  • Improve interactions with staff.

Companions for the Soul was honored to coordinate the Reading To Dogs program at last year’s Bay Area Pet Fair and Adoptathon in Northern California. Bringing to the BAPF for the first time, P.A.T. teams from the Marin Humane Society's Share Program and Bergin University of Canine Studies K-9 Support Team.

A big thank you to Fetch the Paper for making the BAPF happen every year! More than 1,000 guest dogs and 5,000 attendees enjoyed two days of celebrating companion animals and nearly 200 adoptable animlals found homes!


Did you hear us on KBAY with Sam Van Zandt?

Internet Guide to the topics we KBAYdiscussed:

KBAY Radio

More about AAT and autistic children, see our CFTS Autism Resource Guide

Visiting with some of the Animal Assisted Therapy teams at Bucks of Woodside on February 16, 2009, 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM Where is Bucks of Woodside?

More about the Silver Bells

More about Achieve Kids

Thanks Sam! Lets Play it Again!

Who are these guys?

If you have reached this blog, there is a strong chance you share our passion for Pet Assisted Therapy (P.A.T.). Please stay tuned as the best is yet to come!

We hope you enjoy our blog site and utilize the wide array of P.A.T. links. Be sure to click on the tumb nail photos to watch video coverage of P.A.T. in action. If you take the time to explore our windows to the internet you will find a wonderful assemblage of peoples who personify the human companion animal bond. We invite you to join our quest. Please stay tuned as the best is yet to come!

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