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Seaquam grad says goodbye to pet therapy

Valeria Yang first started volunteering with her dog fluffy three years ago, but graduation marks the end of the era.
Valeria Yang has been volunteering with her dog Fluffy at the Northcrest Care Centre for three years.

Almost every Friday after school, Valeria Yang takes her dog Fluffy for a walk. But instead of walking around the block, the two of them head down to Northcrest Care Centre to provide pet therapy for the seniors living there.

“I felt a connection between me and Fluffy and the seniors,” Yang said.

The pet therapy started in November 2014, when Yang was first introduced to the group Pets and Friends.

“At that time she was underage,” Yang’s mom, Shirley Chen, interjected. “I had to go with her” to Northcrest Care Centre.

In the beginning, the three of them (Chen, Yang and Fluffy the dog) would all head down to the seniors home once a week to provide some canine snuggles for the residents.

Other volunteers often chat with the seniors in the home, but Yang prefers to let Fluffy do the talking.

“Some of the seniors have dementia, so they can’t really talk to you, but with a dog it’s kind of universal,” she said.

“They just come and pet the dog and just feel happy without having to talk.”

This isn’t the first community outreach the Yang has done. She’s also been involved in a number of fundraisers and charity efforts, including vol- unteering in the Surrey International Children’s Festival and creating her own fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake.

That’s on top of being an International Baccalaureate student, a cadet in the Royal

Canadian Sea Cadets and having a black belt in Taekwando

“A lot of people do it (volunteering) just for their school work and stuff,” she said.

“For me, I kind of feel obligated to this for the community. I’m actually interested in doing that.”

This June, Yang will be graduating from Seaquam Secondary and will likely be leaving the country to go to university.

She won’t be able to continue her pet therapy at Northcrest Care Centre when she’s away and although she plans to visit on holidays, it won’t be the same.

“Every time I would miss a shift ... they would miss Fluffy so much,” she said.

“They still remember him, so I feel like if I stop, they will miss that moment that they look forward to every week.”