Bucks County, Pa. nonprofit uses therapy dogs to bring kids comfort

Roxy Therapy Dogs currently has 70 teams made up of an owner, handler and their dog
DOYLESTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Sharon Fleck, of Doylestown Pennsylvania, is a proud wife and mother, living in a full house with five cats and one dog. She says animals have always played a big role in her life.

"I've loved animals for as long as I can remember," she said. "I worked with animal rescues, doing outreach and helping build shelters in like rural parts of the country."

She's now the president of Roxy Therapy Dogs, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization with the mission of bringing comfort to kids through the power of therapy dogs.

"It was kind of like my two favorite things...a nonprofit that involved dogs. So it was like, you know, the perfect fit for me and I've just been in heaven ever since," she said.

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Maddy Palmer, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at a young age, started a nonprofit to help others who are battling the disease pay for their medical bills.

A certified therapy pup will visit classrooms, healthcare facilities, high schools, classes for autistic support, disabilities, or stress management, and even stand by children during dependency court hearings.

"Your oxytocin goes up when you interact with dogs, and your dopamine goes up. So you're less depressed. All those mood hormones are affected in a positive way when we interact with dogs, which is why they're so helpful for children who are feeling anxious," she said.

Roxy Therapy Dogs currently has 70 teams made up of an owner, handler and their dog, and can make up to 140 therapeutic visits per week.

"You have a dog there and suddenly that little eight-year-old is not upset or nervous about reading in front of their peers," she said. "We get to see and hear firsthand how we're benefiting these kids, we don't get paid monetarily, but like that's our payment."

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