After moving to Birmingham in 2017, John Bassler and his German Shepherd, Sparto, began volunteering with Hand in Paw. Before becoming a therapy team, John recalled how walking by Children’s Hospital on his way to and from work made him feel inspired to help people and eventually led him to join Hand in Paw. His goal in becoming a volunteer was to help at least one person have a better day. John and Sparto now touch the lives of many through Hand in Paw’s No More Bullying, School’s Best Friend and Petscription initiatives.
In addition to serving Birmingham’s youth, the pair works to mitigate fear and reduce the negative stigma often associated with larger dog breeds.
In an interview John explained, “Sparto not only represents HIP, but being a German Shepherd, he is an ambassador for large dogs and misunderstood breeds”. During their visits, children who feel misunderstood themselves often gravitate towards Sparto who eagerly accepts pets and belly rubs. John is amazed by the transformation that occurs in a person while petting an animal saying “When we get to visit with other teams and see the impact that dogs of all sizes (and even some special kitties!) can have on strangers, it restores my faith in humanity. HIP proves that there are amazing people and animals out there that care about others and making each other’s lives better”.
Volunteers like John and Sparto are the heart and soul of Hand in Paw. Their compassion and commitment drive our organization and further our mission to improve human health and well-being through Animal-Assisted Therapy. Hand in Paw therapy teams provide hope to all who meet them.
If you are interested in volunteering with your pet, please visit the Volunteer with an Animal page on our site!