Pets Helping Kids

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Hospitals and retirement homes often have pets assist patients with healing. A group called Gabriel’s Angels now uses pet therapy at shelters and preschools in the Phoenix area. One of those is United Methodist Outreach Ministries where man’s best friend is helping abused or at-risk children. 

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That’s Bo … and that’s Sonny. Unbeknownst to the children playing, they are here to help them heal.

Pam Gaber / Founder, Gabriel’s Angels: “We find kids in crisis, and we interfere in their lives with a loving therapy dog.”

This day care for 4 and 5-year-olds is run by United Methodist Outreach Ministries. It’s part of a homeless shelter, and many of these children come with a troubled past.

Pam Gaber: “The children that we deal with, frequently they don’t want to trust adults because of their circumstances, but they’ll learn trust again through the therapy dog. And in some cases this is the very first time this child has ever experienced an attachment, a true attachment, one that does not lead to disappointment.”

Amy Ballen / Gabriel’s Angel Volunteer:  “Are you walking the dog, or is the dog walking you?”

Amy Ballen, along with her two Keeshonds, are part of 100 volunteer teams doing this kind of work almost every day somewhere in the Phoenix area.

Darlene Newsom / Director, United Methodist Outreach Ministries:  “We don’t have all the total answers here with working with families. So working with Gabriel’s Angels provides us that partnership and collaboration we otherwise could not provide to the family.”

Amy Ballen:  “I had two very sweet dogs and I thought it would be fun to share them.”

Pam Gaber: “We know there is a very special connection that exists between children and animals and we know we can help develop that compassion and empathy and trust because animals and children are very much alike.”

The hope is that this kind of pet therapy will help make a difference in a child’s life…and help bring an end to the cycle of violence.


Right now Phoenix is the only city with Gabriel’s Angels. Pam Gaber hopes this program will eventually spread to other cities.  For those interested in finding out more about Gabriel’s Angels try their web site at  Another related website is