Pawsology: Harnessing the Healing Power of Dogs

Esty Vardy (L), Founder of Pawsology, and Jason Piercey (R), Board Member, accept their  Support  financing from Bernadette Coady (M), Social Enterprise Coordinator at MBO.

Esty Vardy (L), Founder of Pawsology, and Jason Piercey (R), Board Member, accept their Support financing from Bernadette Coady (M), Social Enterprise Coordinator at MBO.

Metro Business Opportunities is proud to Support the expansion of another local Social Enterprise. Pawsology is a St. John’s-based not-for-profit that offers alternative tools and resources to those suffering from mental illness. The organization has collaborated with Metro Business Opportunities (MBO) to secure expansion financing through the Support loan program. The Social Enterprise development funds will allow Pawsology to purchase and train two new therapy dogs and to promote their programs.

As the name implies, Pawsology’s approach to treating mental illness revolves around the healing power of canine companions. One such initiative pairs Psychiatric Service Dogs with those experiencing mental health issues, all facilitated through the third-party organization, MSAR (Manitoba Search and Rescue). The highly trained dogs help mitigate symptoms: sensing oncoming panic; offering stability and guidance, interrupting disruptive behaviours, protecting personal space, providing tactile stimulation, and intervening during attacks.    

Working with MSAR, each Psychiatric Service Dog receives up to two years of training. The first year of training enforces proper public access behaviours, with the dogs schooled in basic and advanced obedience, and receiving intense socialization. The second year of training prepares them for their specialized job, focusing on disability-related work and tasks.

Pawsology also currently offers two therapy programs – PACK and Y-Pack, for adults and youth respectively. Each 12-week program helps those with mental illness gain control of their lives, by building positive habits and practicing strategies for mental health self-care. The PACK curriculum brings together innovative solutions and industry professionals from diverse fields such as conventional medicine, psychology, coaching, fitness, nutrition, and natural health.

All of Pawsology’s program fees are determined on a sliding scale basis, allowing even low-income individuals to avail of their services. By charging full or partial fees to those that can afford them, Pawsology generates revenue to reinvest in its mission. By engaging in Social Enterprise, Pawsology is able to serve more clients and ensure a sustainable future.

Additional mental health initiatives of Pawsology include an online membership-based support community, professional coaching, and therapy dog program. The public can inquire about their programs and services by e-mailing

Operating as a Social Enterprise will enable us to help more people and depend less on conventional fundraising strategies, allowing us to dedicate more time to our work. While we still need the help and support of local businesses and volunteers, engaging in Social Enterprise allows us to be more independent
— Esty Vardy, Founder of Pawsology

Psychiatric Therapy Dogs: New pups Luke and Lucy are starting their training thanks to MBO’s Support loan program. Here they are pictured with Tori, a fully-trained Psychiatric Therapy Dog.

Pawsology is a new organization with an ambitious mission – to become the go-to mental health organization in Canada. The St. John’s-based not-for-profit incorporated in 2018, to offer alternative tools and resources to those suffering from mental illness. As the name implies, Pawsology’s approach to mental health revolves around the healing power of our canine companions. The organization specializes in delivering custom therapy programs and providing Psychiatric Service Dogs to those suffering with mental illness.

Metro Business Opportunities
Metro Business Opportunities (MBO) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the development of Business and Social Enterprise in St. John's and Mount Pearl. Through business advisory, lending, and training offerings, MBO's knowledgeable team helps potential and existing entrepreneurs of all ages with idea generation, business start-up, and successful growth.

The Support Program
Launched in 2017, Support fosters Social Enterprise development by registered not-for-profit organizations in St. John’s and Mount Pearl. Offered by Metro Business Opportunities (MBO), through funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Support provides up to $50,000 in financing to start or expand a Social Enterprise. The program includes essential business advice and learning opportunities, allowing organizations to develop the necessary skills for successful management of a Social Enterprise.   

About Social Enterprise
There are various means of funding not-for-profit organizations: government grants, fundraising, membership fees, etcetera. By offering goods and services for sale through a Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit generates revenue that it can reinvest into achieving its core mandate. This innovative funding model can provide financial independence for an organization, and bring a more entrepreneurial approach to operations – helping the organization remain relevant, maximize efficiency, and achieve their goals.