Nevaeh and Cruz are two of the biggest sweethearts across the Central Plains, going from place to place, leaving those they meet with the biggest smiles.

They are therapy dogs that help reduce stress in workplaces, care homes, and more. 

Nevaeh's handler, Kennedy Hardinge, has been involved with the program locally since it was launched in 2019 with St. John's Ambulance. Hardinge was recently part of the launch at Ronald McDonald House Charities Manitoba, where therapy dogs visit families to raise morale.

"Ronald McDonald House is just very near and dear to my heart," says Hardinge. "To be asked to be the person to go there, is just such a huge experience, and to be honest, it's one of the top three highlights of my life. It's incredible."

Many families across the Central Plains stay at Ronald McDonald House, while they deal with serious issues away from home. Speaking of home, Hardinge is MacGregor born-and-raised, and has been visiting students at the local schools weekly.

"I get to spend my Friday mornings out there, which is the best way to spend the Friday morning," says Hardinge. "We also go to the care home and the assisted living in MacGregor as well, too, and I try to go there once or twice a month."

Rhonda Palmer is another dog handler who has been doing what she can to help people locally. She participated in a local mental health wellness event with her dog, Cruz, and they both had a blast. Palmer says Cruz has worked very hard to get his certification.

Woman and her dogRhonda Palmer and Cruz

"He had to take a course and he had to be tested twice," says Palmer. "The first test was with adults and then the second test was with kids and he passed both of them. So, he's registered for both. He's got his paperwork."

Palmer says Cruz is perfect in his role. She says he senses when something is wrong and he naturally wants to help others. She is very proud that she gets to be his handler and she is excited to visit more and more people.

"He just likes to be loved and he can tell when somebody is in distress, or sad, and he'll just kindly come along and put his head in their lap," says Palmer. "They are wonderful to make you feel better. Before COVID, we went to Douglas Campbell Lodge and he visited the residents there. We haven't been back since COVID hit, but now, last week, we went to Red River College twice to visit some of the students."