by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

The Power of Paws

Almost two decades ago, Kathy Lam was inspired to help those who were suffering. Watching 9/11 unfold on television, Kathy explained, “I was moved by the use of dogs, not only search and rescue dogs, but therapy dogs who visited the morgue, comforting the victims’ families.” One week later, Kathy had to put her own dog to sleep. “I vowed that if I ever got another dog, I would try to train her to be a therapy dog.”

volunteer_lam4Three months later, Kathy rescued Moli, a Pomeranian/Pekingese mix, and the pair have been certified as a therapy team since 2003. “In the beginning with Moli, we visited several senior residences, the PQ Library, and San Diego Hospice,” she shared.

Kathy and Moli volunteer through the organization Love on a Leash. The national nonprofit trains and certifies volunteers and their dogs to engage in pet-assisted therapy. “If we can provide some comfort to those we visit – easing their pain or stress or whatever the individual is going through – we know we have done our job,” Kathy acknowledged.

Today, she is also serving the San Diego District Attorney’s Office with her second therapy dog, Hoku. “We provide therapy dogs who comfort child victims and witnesses who are going to be testifying,” she explained. Hoku is the D.A.’s third court dog, and they are the D.A.’s first volunteer team.

The success stories are numerous, but one that sticks out was Kathy’s experience with the Love on a Leash reading program at the library. There was one young girl who was very shy and would read quietly to Moli. “A few years later, I received an invitation to How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe,” Kathy shared. “This special little girl was playing the main character in the production! She dedicated her performance not only to her family, but to Moli as well.”


In addition to Love on a Leash, Kathy gives back to the community through a number of organizations. She is a volunteer for Paws’itive Teams, a local group which trains mobility service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. She is an active member in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where she has served a mission and teaches basic genealogy at the Rancho Peñasquitos Library. And last year, she completed the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, the 60-mile walk raising money for the cure for breast cancer, and she is training for it again this year.

Name: Kathy Lam
Community: Canyon Views East
Volunteer Affiliation: Love on a Leash, Paws’itive Teams, Rancho Penasquitos Library, SGK 3-Day Walk for the Cure
Profession: Retired Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice; former criminal defense attorney for Defenders, Inc.
Family: Four siblings, three dogs, and many friends
Hobbies: Pet therapy, genealogy, long-distance walking, reading
Favorite Local Spots: Rancho Penasquitos Library, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, Ridgewood Park

Group: Love on a Leash
Mission: Committed to bringing comfort, happiness, and healing to more people nationwide by increasing public awareness of pet-provided therapy.