Matt Sampley, a volunteer and board member for Horses Spirits Healing, wraps an arm around Moo, one of the horses used in therapy. With him is Bob Crandall, also a board member, with Jacob, his service dog in training. (Ed Kemmick/Last Best News)

HELENA – Pet owners brought their dogs to Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Helena on Saturday to be evaluated for Intermountain Therapy Animals, a nonprofit organization that provides animal-assisted therapy in the areas of physical, occupational, and psychotherapies.

In order for pets to become official Intermountain Therapy Animals, they must pass 23 different elements for evaluations such as calmness, friendliness, be indifferent to other dogs, attentiveness with their owner, and more.

Adele Delp, an evaluator for Intermountain Therapy Animals, said she has been doing this for eight years.

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“I just really enjoyed seeing the difference it made in people,” Delp said.

The pets were put in situations where loud noises were made or where volunteers crowded around the animal and then evaluated on how they reacted.

Intermountain Therapy Animals said their organization visits patients in hospitals and libraries among other places.

“People who are maybe not able to talk or communicate, they light up when an animal comes to visit them and the benefits of that even for that small moment of time, it’s just worth everything as way to give back through the use of our animals,” supporter Will Brunz said.

Brunz said he attended Saturday’s pet therapy training because he wants to start a chapter in the Flathead Valley.

“The outside of an animal is good for the inside of the soul,” he said.

Although training and evaluation is not play time for the animals, Debra Sattler said she had a great time with her pet therapy animal Beluga, a chocolate lab.

“It’s very fulfilling to do, it’s just wonderful to get out and help your community,” Sattler said.

For information on the Helena Pet Therapy chapter, visit its website. To learn more about volunteering, click here.

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