Patty Johnston works with her therapy dog, a Golden Retriever named Faith, "to bring comfort, reduce loneliness, lower anxiety and encourage communication" to the physically challenged, the elderly, residents in nursing homes, children experiencing loss and others.
The pair, volunteering with the Canines for Christ program out of Florida, began their ministry in October 2014 and currently visit North Mobile Nursing and Rehab Center in Eight Mile every other week. "Faith has already become a celebrity," Johnston said. "When the residents see her coming, an automatic smile comes on their faces.:"
On Saturday, March 28, Johnston and Faith will be doing their pet therapy at Shiloh Baptist Church's Special Needs event (on Cleveland Road in Saraland.) And soon, Johnston said, "We will be sharing with some of the children at Destination Church, helping them deal with loss--we are waiting to see what God wants to do there."
Which brings up another point: "I do this because I feel called to it. To me, it is a ministry," Johnston said. "I volunteer with Canines for Christ because it is a Christian-based, animal-assisted therapy ministry that uses ordinary people and their beloved dogs to share God's love, hope, kindness and compassion to the community. It is a 'ministry of presence,'" she said (Canines for Christ website is www.k94Christ.org.)
As to why she chose this service, Johnston said, "I believe God took my passion for dogs and gave it purpose for His Kingdom through this ministry; I believe that the unconditional love of a dog is one of the greatest examples there is of God's love for us."
Johnston has another therapy dog waiting in the wings, Ranger, who will begin his service next month. She said that she does not "advertise" her service. 'My goal is not to 'fill up my calendar,' but I would be interested in other opportunities," she said. Her contact number is 251-604-2448.