By Kristina Houck
Riley Ross frequently brings cheer to patients in local hospitals and nursing homes — many of whom are elderly and lonely.
The 7-year-old beagle-dachshund mix and his owner, Allison Andrews, are volunteers with Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Pet Assisted Therapy program, which will be highlighted at the organization’s annual Celebration of Second Chances gala Sept. 7 at the Del Mar Country Club.
“People love him; he’s a hit,” said Andrews, a longtime donor and volunteer and a new board member of Rancho Coastal Humane Society. “It’s pretty incredible what the power of a dog and somebody who cares and doesn’t pass judgment can do for somebody.”
Riley began his pet-assisted therapy training just after his first birthday. At 2 years old, he was fully certified and began volunteering as a therapy dog.
“Dogs, just like people, have innate gifts and different personalities,” said Andrews, who is one of more than 40 volunteers in the program. “From day one, Riley has been a special little healer. He loves everybody. You can have tubes coming out of you and there can be hospital-beeping sounds, and he treats you just like he’d treat anybody else. He’s very good at it. He knows what he’s doing. He’s meant to do it.”
The Celebration of Second Chances helps support all of Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s programs and services for people and animals, including the Pet Assisted Therapy program, Animal Safehouse program, animal camps, dog park and more.
One of the organization’s newest programs is the Community Pet Food Bank, which provides food and other supplies for people on fixed incomes, the sick and disabled, working families that struggle financially, and the homeless. The food bank, which launched last November, serves about 140 people per month.
Last year’s gala raised more than $80,000, for the organization, which found homes for 800 dogs, cats and rabbits in 2012.
“Your penny goes further at Rancho Coastal. It really has a big impact, and you can really make a big difference,” Andrews said. “This organization goes beyond just helping animals, we’re helping people in the community as well.”
Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Celebration of Second Chances begins at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Del Mar Country Club, 6001 Clubhouse Drive, Rancho Santa Fe. Tickets start at $175.
For more information about Rancho Coastal Humane Society and to purchase tickets to Celebration of Second Chances, visit