During an emergency response in a small Illinois town, Jennifer Dahn had her first encounter with a comfort dog team. Little did she know this would lead her down an extremely fulfilling path. Jenn has since created her own comfort dog ministry called PawPrint Ministries, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting hurting hearts in central Illinois and beyond. Jenn’s organization provides comfort dogs to disaster areas, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. The distinct impact of comfort dogs has even been seen here at Arthur Home, a senior community located in Arthur, Illinois.
Before PawPrint Ministries, Jenn was a personal trainer who loved her job with no desire to leave it. When asked about becoming involved with comfort dogs, she said, “I never in a million years imagined myself doing this. I’ve never been a huge fan of big dogs. But when you see these dogs in action, you can’t even describe it.” PawPrint Ministries began in April of 2014 and quickly grew from having one comfort dog to six certified comfort dogs and seven in training. Their main office is located in Decatur, Illinois. PawPrint Ministries works with PawPrint partner teams who own the dogs and dedicate their time to train the dogs, take the dogs out, and raise awareness and funds for PawPrint Ministries.
Over eight months ago, PawPrint Ministries took their first trip to Arthur Home, which has quickly grown into one of their favorite locations because of the excellent staff and enthusiastic residents. Jenn says, “The staff and the residents… their faces just light up. Just a couple of minutes with our comfort dogs can turn their day around. To walk into someone’s room who may have been having a bad day, to let them snuggle these dogs, and to see their whole demeanor change… That’s why we do it. For that one person who we impact.” Jenn understands that oftentimes people have to leave their animals behind when they move into a new community and they miss that connection. Speaking about Payton, the comfort dog, Jen says, “He doesn’t judge. He doesn’t speak. He just walks in with compassion.”
In addition to various visits that usually take place six days a week, Jenn and the comfort dog team have many more
ongoing projects. PawPrint Ministries has teamed up with pharmacies in Decatur to raise money to bring two additional comfort dogs into Illinois in order to give back to veterans. These dogs would be trained by veterans and then would make visits to the many veterans in Illinois who could benefit from interacting with a comfort dog. These veteran specific dogs have the power to make a profound impact on people. Jen reminisced on one encounter she had with a veteran, saying, “Last time at Arthur, we met a veteran and Eli, the comfort dog, is learning to salute. Eli held his paw up and saluted, and the man did it right back.”
PawPrint Ministries can be found at Arthur on the second Tuesday of each month at 10AM! Meet Jenn, Payton, and the rest of the team on either August 9th or September 13th!