Posted on Thursday, Jan 21, 2021 by Billie Branham, ed. Marya Morgan

(K-LOVE Closer Look) – Dogs have a special place in our hearts. Animals classified as canines (K9s) have rightfully earned the title ‘man’s best friend’ through centuries of companionship, comfort and unmatched service to humanity. Even people who prefer cats have to admit, dogs are pretty special. “Most of us know, people that pet dogs, the dog provides comfort, they get happy when they do -- and so we wanna make people happy,” says Chaplain Ron Leonard with for Canines for Christ.

Dogs who sign up with Canines for Christ take car rides with their families to visit sick people in cancer wards, lonely people in nursing homes, stressed people in police stations, forgotten people in prisons and anywhere else tails need to wag. “Our dogs have been able to break through depression to assure people that God really does love them and care for them,” which Leonard says lifts people to better health physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The dogs themselves are varied –many originally came from shelters – and are only minimally trained. The most important quality a volunteer dog must have is to be friendly. “We only ask that the dog is good with people, good with children and absolutely has never bitten anybody,” explains Leonard. Volunteer dogs should also have earned the Canine Good Citizenship certificate from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Canines for Christ began in 2007 -- with a borrowed dog -- after founder Larry Randolph felt God calling him to begin a therapy dog ministry. He later adopted a dog named Gracie and took her to visit people in need. Since their first mission together, the organization has grown to more than 1,000 dogs in 36 U.S. states and chapters in 6 foreign countries. Volunteers range in age from 4 yrs old (with parental permission) and at present has a 93-year old Texas man who takes his dog out on therapeutic missions.

Volunteer handler Jill Powell is a dog-owner who felt a call to shift her focus from entering her dogs into shows for ribbons and transition them to ministry. “Not only are we sharing the love of Christ with folks, but we help people de-stress and just let the worries of the day wash away by the interaction with my dog Molly -- hopefully we bring them a smile.” Molly is an Anatolian Shephard mix who was bound for a local high-kill shelter when Jill and her husband rescued her. Not only is Molly now a part of a family, she has important work listening while young children practice reading aloud to her, cheering up teen girls in youth detention and sparking smiles for weary soldiers at USO military events. Jill laughs, remembering one excited serviceman who exclaimed to everyone, ‘hey, did you guys know Molly is a Christian dog?’”

The rewards Jill gets from enrolling Molly in Canines For Christ events have proven as satisfying as any ribbons or trophies her sports dogs ever won.

“God creating dogs that have such intuition for what people are feeling and be able to kinda seek that out and offer comfort…is really an amazing thing to be a part of.”

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