Send A Puppy To Someone!

PupPals Program
Send A Puppy To Someone!
New PupPals program offers support during COVID-19 pandemic

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Ever wish you could just send a dog to a friend who is struggling? Now thanks to the AKC you can! Well, not a real dog but the next best thing, a message from a dog! No matter how hard a day you are having—and let's be honest most of us are having pretty rough days right now—dogs make everything a little bit better. Those of us who live with dogs know how good they are at lifting spirits and supporting us during challenging times. Now we can share them with others. During this global health crisis, the AKC’s PupPals program has expanded its reach to support  everyone: first responders, grocery workers, doctors, nurses, students, and anyone else who needs some puppy love. 

The AKC PupPals Program began in 2019 as a way for dogs to support children who were sick and hospitalized, or dealing with a death in the family, a parental deployment, or other struggle.  Dog guardians participating in the program could upload pictures of their dogs alongside information about what the dogs liked to do, favourite games, etc. These uplifting messages were then distributed by the AKC to kids in need of a PupPal. I signed my dog Sirius up to be involved in the program when it first started and even though we don’t know which kids got messages from her (for privacy reasons), it felt good knowing my giant girl had brought a smile to a child’s face.


photo - scouting.for.adventure

Now amidst the COVID-19 pandemic the ACK has opened up the PupPals program to help even more people. Talking to Modern Dog, AKC’s Director of Education Ashley Jacot explained: “We started this program in August 2019 because we know the power that dogs have to bring people joy, love, and companionship. We decided to expand this program during this difficult time because there are so many in our country and in the world who desperately need those things right now. AKC PupPal messages give people support and encouragement at a time that they need it most.” Each PupPal video message being sent during COVID-19 is one minute in length and features a dog sharing about their day and offering an uplifting message of hope and comfort.

The PupPals program has been incredibly popular. Jacot mentioned that currently, “There are more than 3,800 dogs involved in the AKC PupPals Program. We have dogs participating from every US state and more than 13 countries.” If you know someone who needs a little extra canine support right now (and yes, you are encouraged to even nominate yourself!) all you need to do is fill out the PupPals Request Form available here. Be aware that if you want a PupPal message to be sent to a minor you need to have the permission of the parent/guardian to do so. Once nominated, that person will receive, within eight to ten business days, an uplifting video message from one of the AKC PupPals!  


photo - BentelyMeathead

Want to get involved? You can sign your dog up to be a PupPal! Dogs of any breed or mix of breeds are welcome to participate (dogs do not have to be AKC registered) and can be any age. Volunteering with the PupPal program is free, all you need to do is follow the simple instructions  to create a video (all instructions are available here ) showing off a trick or looking cute, with an uplifting message from the point of view of your dog! The video can talk about your dog’s breed (if applicable), what your dog enjoys doing, favourite games to play, or even showing off a trick or activity your dog enjoys doing. Because for privacy reasons you won't know who will receive your dog's videos, the AKC asks that dog guardians help their dogs to include general uplifting messages. Dogs who participate will receive a e-certificate of recognition for their volunteer efforts (dogs involved in the first PupPals program received a bandanna and certificate by mail). 

If you and your dog have a few minutes to volunteer the process is easy. Doing something to make someone else's day a little brighter is a good feeling when so many things feel overwhelming. Regardless of if you and your dog volunteer, send PupPal messages to anyone you know who could use a little extra comfort and encouragement during the pandemic. Not all dogs or handlers/guardians have the right temperament to train to be working Therapy Dog teams  (I know I don’t!) that, when we aren’t globally socially distancing, go into nursing homes, hospitals, schools etc. to support and interact with people who are sick or struggling—but every dog can be a PupPal! During this COVID-19 pandemic it’s easy to feel helpless and isolated, but the PupPals program is a wonderful opportunity to bring people and dogs together.
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Sassafras Lowrey is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor and author of “Tricks In The City,” “Healing/Heeling,” “Bedtime Stories For Rescue Dogs,” and the activity book “Chew This Journal” forthcoming in Summer 2020. Follow Sassafras and her canine adventures on Twitter/Instagram and at SassafrasLowrey.com 

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