Shari Preston first learned about Paws & Think while watching PetPals TV in 2016. She was intrigued by the story and started volunteering with the Pawsitive Corrections Youth-Canine program shortly after. Shari has become a regular volunteer as a Mentor/Coach for the Youth-Canine program, and she has witnessed many inspiring moments that she says she hopes will make a difference for the youths that she has had the pleasure of meeting.
Shari explains that if a dog is distracted or shies away from a teen in the program, she will describe for the teen all that the dog has been through in such a short time: living in a noisy shelter, traveling with the other dogs from the shelter to the Juvenile Detention Center, and moving into an unfamiliar kennel with all new sights, sounds, and smells. She said the teens often speak about how they can relate to the dog’s experience, and within minutes, she’s able to watch a bond grow between the youth and the dog.
Helping the youth to practice different obedience commands with their dogs reinforces this bond, and she remembers one teen confiding in her that his dog taught him patience. Shari can relate to this – she has one dog of her own, a 7-year old yellow Lab mix named Finn that she rescued in 2014. She explains that before Finn, she didn’t know what it was like to be around a fearful dog, and he has taught her so much. She and her husband, Chris, love to go hiking with Finn, and she enjoys sharing stories of their adventures with kids in the Youth-Canine programs.
In addition to helping with the Youth-Canine program, Shari also volunteers as an escort with the Paws to Heal program at St. Vincent. “It’s great to ask someone if they would like a pet visit, and then to watch the emotional change it brings to the entire room,” she says, reflecting on the impact of the program. She explains that not only does visiting with a therapy dog brighten a patient’s day, but it often starts a great conversation by allowing the person to share stories about their dog as well. For her, this is the best part of volunteering with Paws & Think: “It’s so heartwarming to see the pure joy on a person’s face when they talk about a dog!”