"Paws & Hearts"Animal Assisted Therapy

Some of our Canine Ambassadors who are at the Rainbow Bridge

Drew Marefos -- Some very very sad news to share--you all know "Uncle" Drew Marefos, (Uncle to all my dogs since Lucky). Drew trained many of you over the years to become volunteers. For those of you who attended our December Office Party, Drew was right there at my side. He passed away very suddenly on Friday April 28th.

His family, his late partner Emelio's family, his friends and I are still in shock. Those of you who saw us together know what an incredible friendship we had. He believed in our little organization and worked tirelessly doing whatever he could to help out. I have so many amazing memories of 16 1/2 years of dear, dear friendship. Just look at a few of the pictures of us together at various times over the years of Paws & Hearts. He was also so proud to put on his volunteer shirt and talk about his volunteer efforts!!! I couldn't have asked for a better side-kick.

There will be much more on Drew's life with us in our Summer 2023 Newsletter!

"Okay Drew, just let me know you got to heaven safe and sound and that you are with your loved ones."--signed--the one on earth who loved you the most--Ricky

"Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy is a Pet Therapy Visitation Organization, which was founded in December, 2000 by Richard and "Lucky" Waxman. We are a registered Not-For-Profit (501 C3) community based volunteer group.

We are located in Palm Desert, CA and serve the entire Coachella Valley with our trained Canine Ambassadors and their human handlers. Seven days of the week, our 45 plus teams make weekly visits to area hospitals, long-term care facilities, Cancer Centers, Alzheimer's Facilities and senior centers. Our 2-legged and 4-legged teams visit with the residents and patients in these facilities, lifting spirits by providing some much needed canine therapy. Our mission statement is quite simple:

Spring 2022 Interview

Watch the 2018 Volunteer Video

Bereavement Support Group NBC Palm Springs Interview

Featured in the "Modern Woodmen Quarterly Magazine"


Our Mission Statement

"Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy is a leader in the field of "Animal Assisted Therapy" (AAT) and it is our mission to enrich the lives of the frail and special care cases that require the loving attention and affection that only a "four-legged" healer can provide.


(Click Above Button to Read the Current Newsletter)

Just imagine being laid up in a hospital or convalescent center and into your room strolls a four-legged Canine Ambassador from "Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy. The greater presence of animals in health-care settings comes amid increasing evidence that pets are good for us and can play a significant role in patients' recovery. Referred to as "Pet Therapy" or "Animal Assisted Therapy", pet visitations have become an important tool for doctors and rehabilitation specialists.

Animals motivate people to participate in their therapies, brighten patients' days, give them a chance to talk about the animals in their lives, and give them the opportunity to forget they're in a hospital. Clinical studies have already shown that petting a dog or a cat lowers blood pressure, and has an overall calming effect on patients. But just as important as the clinical benefits, visiting pets give the patients a real breather from their current situation.

Many of the patients visited are withdrawn and in pain, but bring a friendly dog or purring cat into the room and 99% of the time the patient will respond favorably. The visiting pet brings a change of pace to the day that has long lasting effects. Consider this story;


"My Mother was in respite in the hospital. The day one of your Canine Ambassadors came to visit was my mother's best day! All she did was talk about how sweet and gentle the dog was and how happy he made her feel. You have no idea how wonderful this program is!"


Much has been written lately about the difference between dogs used for Pet Therapy and Service Dogs. Both titles have distinct differences both in the training and what the dog ultimately is used for. At "Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy we only train dogs for use in health-care settings and they have the classification of Therapy Dog, or as we term them, Canine Ambassador.

Every Pet Therapy organization has its own standard of temperament testing, training and ultimate certification. At "Paws & Hearts" we require dogs to be:

  • a minimum of a one year old
  • spayed or neutered
  • current on all vaccinations

And that's it! We do not require basic obedience class or the Canine Good Citizenship award. Our evaluator is looking for dogs that are incredibly friendly, outgoing, curious about new surroundings, who interacts exceedingly well with strangers on a first time meet and greet. If a dog is good at this, and takes simple commands from its human parent it will pretty much pass the test and be ready for training.

"Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy is a 501c3 Non Profit Animal Assisted Therapy Organization located in Palm Desert, California. Volunteer handlers and their Canine Ambassadors visit their assigned facility once per week. Please consider becoming a Volunteer Team with our organization. Please enjoy our site and email us at with your questions.

Now that you have read through the Home page and understand what it is we are looking for in a potential Canine Ambassador, please give our office a call at (760) 836-1406 to have your first informal interview. If the phone interview goes well, you will be invited to complete the formal Volunteer Application. Please keep in mind, that we are located in a seasonal area. The desert is home to many 'winter snow-birds'. We only accept full-time desert dwellers who are able to make an initial commitment of one-year, visiting their assigned facility each and every week.

Richard and his mascot dog, Terry, look forward to hearing from you!

Click on the above box to watch the documentary

Comprehensive Cancer Center at Desert Regional Medical Center
Country Villa Rancho Mirage Healthcare
The Fountains at the Carlotta
Manor Care
Palm Springs Healthcare
Vista Cove at Rancho Mirage
Windsor Court
Bella Villagio
Desert Springs Healthcare and Wellness
Indio Nursing & Rehabilitation
Martha's Village & Kitchen
Caleo Bay
Hacienda de Monterey

The original mascots of "Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy 'Lucky' (right) and 'Scruffy'
doing what they do best, sharing love and comfort to a patient at Eisenhower Medical Center.


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"Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy
The Berger Foundation Building

42-600 Cook Street, Suite 138, Palm Desert, CA 92211
Phone (760) 836-1406