Meet Luna, the Therapy Corgi at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Luna Therapy Dog at Phoenix House Academy of San DiegoLocated in a rustic countryside, among hills filled with wildlife, Phoenix House Academy of San Diego is an intensive residential and day treatment program for teens with substance abuse and mental health issues. The Academy uses cognitive behavioral therapy and the most advanced treatment approaches offered by professional staff. But the secret of its effectiveness and the high levels of satisfaction expressed by clients may lie elsewhere.

Meet Luna, the Therapy Corgi. Luna is a 2.5 year old Pembroke Welsh Corgi who has started at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego as a therapy dog late December 2012. In her role as a therapy dog, Luna helps comfort residents during individual therapy sessions and when they are simply having a bad day. She comes to the facility 1-2 times a week.

Luna has also had the opportunity to be part of groups, whether to comfort or to be used as an example. In one session she modeled how to resist temptation, by displaying her “Leave It” ability when a tasty cookie was placed in front of her. That particular instance turned into a great example of how to resist when there is peer pressure involved. One resident tried to get Luna to take the treat, while another held her back when she almost gave in. Suitably enough, the group was Relapse Prevention and the topic was on how to resist temptation when around old friends.

Residents have asked her to perform tricks, teach her new ones, or even asked if they could paint her nails. She will sit on their laps, allow them to pet her all over, give kisses to her face and head, do silly antics to get them to laugh, and generally give the residents an opportunity to not be judged by another being.

Luna got her start in this field at a young age. From the time she was 8 weeks old her owner would ask random people she encountered to pet her. She lived at home with three children, ranging in age from 1-7 years old, who taught her what kids were all about. At 10 weeks old she started her first obedience class, Puppy Kindergarten, where she was awarded as an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy. She continued with additional classes and passed the Canine Good Citizen requirement April 2011, when she was only 7 months old.

Luna Therapy Dog at Phoenix House Academy of San DiegoShe went on to a Trick Class and then took a Therapy Dog class that introduced her to different stimuli that she may encounter in that field, including scary noises, other animals, and surprising behavior. She passed her Control Evaluation shortly after she turned a year old and began her ten-hour supervised visits to get certified as a therapy dog. Ultimately she  passed with flying colors and officially became certified with Love on a Leash February 2012.

She has volunteered at the VA Hospital, Rady’s Children’s Hospital Celebration of Champions, Camp Reach for the Sky, convalescent homes, senior living communities, library reading programs, universities during their midterms and finals, and more. She was also a volunteer with San Diego Hospice and their Pawsitive Pals program where she visited patients of all ages who were on hospice care. Her favorite visits are with children and those that get to play with her. She is currently on working on her hours to get the official AKC title of Therapy Dog.


This report was prepared by Luna’s owner, Krystle Briese, the Bilingual Family Therapist at Phoenix House Academy of San Diego. The Director of Phoenix House San Diego, Elizabeth Urquhart, who is fond of animals working with the residents, welcomes Luna’s important position as a member of the staff.

Phoenix House Academy of San Diego offers a full scope of evidence-based therapeutic treatment approaches, as well as an accredited high school on-site, equestrian therapy, sports organic gardening, and various enrichment activities. If you or someone in your familystruggles with substance abuse and mental health issues, we are  here to help. Please call our admission call center at 1 888 671 9392.


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