In Loving Memory of Laura Ibsen
Laura Ibsen Pet Therapy Program

In February 2018, Laura Ibsen passed away due to complications from autoimmune diseases. Laura dedicated over ten years of her young life to Pet Therapy, starting in 2005 when she first visited Chandler Regional Hospital with her therapy dog, Patches. After that, she became an evaluator for Pet Partners, evaluating potential Pet Therapy teams in Arizona. She was also the Pet Therapy Team Lead at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and volunteered at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Here, at Pawsitive Friendships, Laura, Patches and then Scooter, volunteered countless invaluable hours working one-on-one with various children on a weekly basis. 
With degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education, she was ideal for us. She used every moment as a teaching moment for the benefit of the children and worked diligently and devotedly to ensure each child’s success. When one youngster was afraid of getting a haircut, Laura encouraged her to use a child’s scissors to “cut” Scooter’s hair during one of their occupational therapy sessions. Then, on her own time, she and Scooter accompanied the child’s family to the salon to help her have a haircut while she repeated that same exercise.  
Laura’s compassion for and commitment to others was unparalleled, and this Pet Therapy Training Program is designed to honor her memory and her legacy. Its goal is to train and register new Pet Therapy teams whose human handlers have hearts as warm and loving as hers. Once registered, these teams will volunteer with Pawsitive Friendships for a two-year term. 
Applications for the Laura Ibsen Pet Therapy Training program will be accepted on a per diem basis, and before applying, all interested candidates are urged to review the requirements listed below.
Animal Requirements: 
  • Must be one year old at time of evaluation
  • Must have lived with owner for at least 6 months
  • Must be current with vaccines
  • Must have no history of aggression
  • Must demonstrate basic obedience skills
Handler Requirements: 
  • Must be 18 years or older.
  • Must “read” their animal’s body language and recognize when their animal is stressed, anxious, concerned, over stimulated or fatigued.
  • Must interact positively with their animal by praising, cueing, encouraging and reassuring their animal as needed.
  • Must cue or redirect their animal without raising their voice, forcefully jerking on the leash or offering their animal food or toys.
  • Must be able to engage in casual conversation with those they meet on their visits while still being attentive to their animal.
  • Must guide the interactions of others with their animal in a polite and professional manner during therapy sessions.
  • Must be mindful of and “advocate for” the safety and wellbeing of their animal at all times during therapy sessions.
  • Must attend weekly pet therapy training classes for 6 to 10 weeks in addition to completing assigned team “homework.”
  • Must attend an animal handler course through Pet Partners. Achieving a Certificate of Completion to become a registered animal therapy team. 
  • Must attend Pawsitive Friendships training/orientation.
  • Must undergo and pass a fingerprint check and have no criminal background. 
  • Must be available for one therapy session a week at a school or clinic associated with Pawsitive Friendships for the term of their Pet Partners registration (two years). 
  • Must demonstrate professionalism, compassion for individuals with special needs, and respect for their privacy in compliance with HIPAA.
If you are interested in submitting an application or learning more about the program, please contact Tosha at