Bella's Rescue Dog Therapy Program | PAWS Chicago

Bella's Rescue Dog Therapy Program


Bella’s Rescue Dog Therapy Program
of PAWS Chicago

The bond between humans and animals is unquestionably strong. In addition to being our best friends, animals have the power to improve our health, lower our blood pressure and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety.

We created Bella’s Rescue Dog Therapy Program of PAWS Chicago to connect certified therapy rescue dogs with members of our community who would benefit from time and interaction with our furry friends. 

About the Program

PAWS Chicago matches certified therapy rescue dogs and their human handlers with members of our community in need of this service as a way to give back to the community. The program focuses on locations providing health and wellness support, such as rehabilitation facilities and nursing/retirement homes.

PAWS Chicago’s Therapy Rescue Dog program is named after animal advocate, Bella Charfoos. After her younger brother had an extended stay in the hospital, she understood how the presence of a therapy dog could change a patient’s day. Her goal is to work with PAWS Chicago to create an uplifting environment for people through the healing power of animals.

How the Program Works

Volunteers with certified therapy rescue dogs sign up to join the Bella’s Therapy Rescue Dog program. PAWS Chicago serves as a matchmaker, pairing interested volunteers and their dogs with sites that would benefit from a therapy dog visit.

The program is open to any certified therapy dog that was rescued from a shelter. Human handlers are responsible for showing proof of therapy dog certification to PAWS Chicago, along with any other documentation or records required by the facility to be visited.

PAWS manages all pre- and post-visit logistics, ensuring a seamless experience for the volunteers, dogs and host sites.

Profile of a Therapy Dog Visit

Dogs and their handlers visit locations alongside a PAWS Ambassador trained to speak and answer questions about PAWS Chicago. While visit formats will vary based on the facility, each visit will include a brief presentation on PAWS Chicago. 

Following the presentation, the therapy dog and handler interact with the location’s residents, patients or clients. Visits may be one on one or can take place in a larger group setting. 

Interaction with a therapy dog can take many forms. Some people may enjoy the comfort and relaxation that petting, reading to or socializing a therapy dog provides. Others may use a therapy dog visit as a component of physical therapy – helping to maintain or increase motor skills and increase joint movement.

Sign Up 

For more information or to sign up for the program – either as a facility requesting visitation services or volunteer rescue dogs, please contact us at

Interested in Certifying Your Rescue Dog?

There are many organizations who register, test and certify therapy dogs. To find one near your, visit Therapy Dogs International for details.