BOOKS: Gabriel’s Angels—The story of the dog who inspired a revolution

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2011:

Gabriel’s Angels:
The story of the dog who inspired a revolution
by Pam Gaber
Gabriel’s Angels, Inc.
(1550 E Maryland Ave.,  Suite 1,
Phoenix,  AZ 85014),  2011.  Paperback,  $19.99.

My adopted dog Luke died in 2010.  Earlier,  Luke and I were a therapy team with Gabriel’s Angels from 2001-2008.  Gabriel,  the founding dog,  slobbered on my cheek a few times and I think the organization is super.

Gabriel’s Angels:  The story of the dog who inspired a revolution is founder Pam Gaber’s memoir of how she and Gabriel and a chance visit to a group for abused children led her to start an organization that changes the lives of maltreated children.  A former business executive,  Gaber became unhappy with travel,  endless meetings,  and conference calls.  One day in 1999 she quit and began her new career as a volunteer at the Crisis Nursery in Phoenix, nurturing abused and abandoned children.  The Christmas party approached and Gaber asked executive director Marsha Porter for permission to bring her one-year-old Weimaraner to the party. Initially Porter wavered,  then said “Why not?”

Gaber dressed her dog as Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, complete with a red and green doggie T-shirt and jingle bell collar. At the party children slowly gathered around the big friendly dog, petting his back and stroking his head.  Giggles replaced scowls.  A boy whom Gaber calls Danny had cried on and off since his admission to the home.  Danny buried his tears into Gabriel’s neck,  and according to Gaber,  seemed at peace.  Porter was so impressed with the children’s reactions that she asked Gaber to return with Gabriel.

Word quickly spread that Gaber headed a pet therapy organization that visited abused children.  So she scrambled to learn about pet therapy from the Delta Society.  Gabriel became a registered therapy dog and the first official member of a new group called Gabriel’s Angels.  To meet growing demand,  Gaber asked friends, family and neighbors with friendly dogs to become registered with the Delta Society.  The Gaber’s den served as an office.  IRS nonprofit status followed,  allowing the group to solicit donations. An article in a local newspaper brought more volunteers.  Gabriel’s Angels was on a roll.

Now Gabriel’s Angels rents an office,  has a staff of nine, and juggles constant demand for services. A branch opened in Tucson in 2008.  Around 150 therapy teams serve more than 13,000 children in 100 agencies in Phoenix and southern Arizona.

Does pet therapy reduce aggression among children exposed to domestic violence?  The yearly formal program evaluation performed by an accredited outside agency says it does.  Results demonstrate that Gabriel’s Angels is effective at improving self esteem and building empathy.

The Scratch and Sniff Foundation honored Gabriel in 2004. The Arizona Animal Hall of Fame inducted Gabriel in 2006.  In 2010 Gabriel was posthumously honored by Maricopa County Friends of Animal Care and Control.
–Debra J. White

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