By Carla Turchetti
Cover photo by Davies Photography; all other photos courtesy of Retrieving Hearts

To spend time with a pet is to know unconditional love in its purest form. Pets don’t judge their people; they accept them with all their strengths and weaknesses just as they are, and that’s why animal-assisted therapy can be such a positive experience for young and old alike.

Retrieving Hearts in Raleigh provides animal-assisted therapy services through volunteers working alongside specially trained dogs to improve the physical and psychological well-being of others.

“Animal-assisted therapy is such a powerful tool because it provides comfort during the most stressful times,” says Catherine Guy, who founded Retrieving Hearts in 2015. “A therapy dog brings enjoyment and smiles during their visit. They know how to reduce stress and anxiety, and even improve social skills.”

Some of the places Retrieving Hearts volunteer humans and canines visit include the Ronald McDonald House of Durham; Camp Grace which is a camp for autistic children; nursing homes; and even North Carolina State University during exam week.

The team of therapy dogs at Retrieving Hearts is made up of all golden retriever rescues right now, but Guy is open to adding other breeds to the team.