Photo courtesy of Pleasant Valley Men’s Shelter
Ann is an 8-year-old lab mix who is the most recent addition to the men’s shelter.

By Kristin Douty

Northside Commons Ministry provides a refuge for the displaced at the Pleasant Valley Men’s Shelter, but now there is one female resident to keep them company – a kind and friendly dog named Ann.

Director Jay Poliziani introduced Ann to the shelter residents six months ago after obtaining her from the humane society, and Ann’s sweet demeanor was an instant hit among the residents.

“Four of the guys who live here take care of her on a daily basis,” Poliziani said. “They feed her and give her walks.”

After not getting along with her previous family’s new baby, the 8-year-old lab mix was brought to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society where they were happy to give her a permanent home at the Pleasant Valley Men’s Shelter.

Before her arrival at the NCM, Ann underwent several tests to ensure that she was a safe candidate to assist with therapy. Poliziani said she received only positive marks and recalls the first time he met Ann; she was “the only quiet, calm dog sitting in a corner.”

Poliziani said the humane society plans to send more therapy dogs to other drug and alcohol shelters across Pittsburgh with hope that other people in need can experience the affection of a pet.

“Many of the guys have emotional baggage and need the unconditional love that a dog provides,” Poliziani said.

Nearly 30 men sleep at the shelter almost every night of the year, and Ann is the residents’ loyal companion – she watches television and falls asleep beside the residents in her crate every night.

Ann has adapted well to the shelter, but several of the residents are accommodated to cope with their fear of dogs.

Although currently Ann has had no issues with the shelter residents, Poliziani said that NCM puppy-proofs different rooms and doorways with gates so Ann can walk about the second floor with shelter employees.

Poliziani said that Ann “helps the guys to stay calm,” a factor that is especially important as the residents rebuild their personal and professional lives.

The shelter provides an ideal space for the men to rebuild their independence, one step at a time. Whenever a resident is able to leave NCM, his name is written in one of the painted blocks on a mural in the shelter. Ann is just one of the blocks on the path to rebuilding their lives.