He sews a seed of remembrance where memories have been long lost….
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Every Monday, Janice Monks and Lucky, her seven year old Dalmatian-Labrador mix, visit local elementary schools in Pensacola, Florida. They have visited with over one thousand children during this past school year! Janice says the students are excited to see Lucky in their classrooms and love petting and hugging him when their special “Reading, Writing, and Rover” presentation is finished. Lucky has an excellent rapport with the children and it shows what a positive impact he has on the children by the amount of letters from students that Lucky receives during the year!

But what really touched my heart is the volunteer work this Pet Partners team does every Friday. Lucky visits patients in a local Alzheimer’s facility each week. Janice says “What a joy it is to see sad eyes turn to loving eyes as they greet Lucky, pet him, hold on tight to him and yes, even kiss him. The most difficult question to answer is ~ Can I keep him? ~. Of course, I explain how lost I would be without Lucky, my friend and partner. Many of the same questions are asked each week, it is our pleasure to answer each one. Often times patients will not come out of their rooms until they know that Lucky is there to visit.”

Lucky also visits a rehabilitation facility where many of the patients are in wheelchairs or using walkers or crutches. Janice says “the reception is fantastic – many residents have left their pets at home and miss seeing them. The patients talk about their pets. At least for a few minutes, these people are comforted, focused on Lucky and forget about their own pain and struggle to return home.”

Melissa Parker, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Encore Senior Village, said that “The work Lucky and Janice do leaves a lasting impression on the hearts of our residents and staff. Lucky sews a seed of remembrance where memories have been long lost. And, for at least one brief moment he allows our residents normality. Lucky is a hero here at Encore. The joy that Lucky brings every time he steps onto the property could not be (adequately) expressed in words. He truly is life when life feels lost to these patients. Encores is so very grateful and appreciative to Lucky and Janice Monks for sharing their time each week with us and for touching the lives of everyone they come across”.

Janice wrote in a letter that “the love we receive and the rewarding feeling I have each week is enormous…and the reality sinks in that all of us may have illnesses or accidents in the future as we age AND we may be the ones that are being helped by dedicated people and animals.”

Thank you Lucky and Janice for your dedication and positive impact you’re having in your local community. You two are another great example of animals changing people’s lives.

The End of a Wonderful Summer and Many Thank You's
Monday, September 28, 2009

This weekend marked the end of a wonderful Summer.  A Summer that found me working a Delta Society informational booth at community and pet festivals just about every weekend since the first of June.  While I must admit there were several weekend mornings that I awoke and wanted stay in bed as I wasn't looking forward to having to set up yet another booth, that dread was very short lived.  Once I got to each event and met so many engaging people, often with their pets, I was always re-energized.

Thank you to all the Pet Partners and other volunteers who volunteered their time to help me at so many of the booths.  The stories you shared with me about the work you do and the passion you have is contagious.  It was an honor to be by your side as you and your dogs inspired others to explore how they too might become Pet Partners.  Watching you in action, as people in need of a little 'therapy' were able to pet and interact your dogs was also such a joy to watch.  There was the non-verbal 5 year old boy who shrieked in excitement as he petted a dog and his mom beamed with such pride watching her boy enjoy this interaction, there was the senior being pushed in her wheelchair who got such joy sharing stories of dogs she played with in her youth as she accepted the endless love of one of the 'Delta Dogs' and who's daughter later told me she hadn't heard her mom talk so much for months, and then there was another child who overcame her fears as she petted a dog for the first time in her life - and so many other experiences of the 'magic' that Pet Partners bring to others.

Thank you also to all the people who stopped by the booth (often with their precious pooches - or cats and bunnies in a few instances) to learn more about Delta Society and what it takes to become a registered therapy team.  Several of you I've since seen as you've come to one of our Discovery Sessions and some have already completed or have registered for a Workshop.  I can't wait to hear your stories about the lives you will touch in the near future.

Thank you to all the people who shared their stories of how animals are important in their lives.  Such as the woman who has been working on convincing her husband to get a dog for years - I hope all the information you gained from research which shows how people's lives are enhanced by having pets in their lives has resulted in your now sharing your home with a 4-footed one.   To the many people who stopped by to share how our website has helped with questions they had about Service Dogs - thank you for taking the time to let us know our services have been of value to you. 

Finally, thank you to all the event organizers who invited Delta Society to be part of your outdoor events.  It was a great Summer...because I met so many wonderful people, who share a common passion - a love of pets and how they help people.


Part Of The Club
Friday, September 25, 2009

Growing up a product of a father whose job relocated our family so frequently that we never owned a home, the prospect of owning a dog was always something in the very distant future for me. I perfected puppy eyes while pleading to my parents for a dog, but the closest I ever came was when I was seven -- a guinea pig that I named Spot. It wasn't until I was in college, and my older brother got a Golden Retriever named Madison that I entered the world of being a 'dog person.' Until that time it had always seemed like a club I wasn't priveed to, being a dog owner meant that you spent weekends with other dog owners to socialize your dogs, share stories about the latest escapades and have an extra exciting reason to get home after a long day.

My brother was out of town on business much of the time, and as Madison's "second favorite human" I was always happy to watch her. On many occasions this consisted of sneaking her into my college dorm, sometimes in a T-shirt and baseball cap, mostly for theatrics but also because she always enjoyed doing things that made people laugh. The times I watched Madison seemed to make up for my entire life without a dog. We seemed to understand one another perfectly; ours was exactly the type of human-dog relationship that I had always heard about.

She was not my dog though, as my brother would so often remind me. And as life and time went on, I moved around. Sometimes to an area close to my brother and Madison, but not always. I will never forget the look on my boss' face at my first job out of college when I asked for time off to go to New York to watch Madison. "My point is this," I explained to my not-dog-lover boss, "friendships change, jobs change, locations change, but Madison has been a happy constant." And off I went cross country to dog sit.

Madison filled my life with stories - oh boy did she give me stories. There was the time I brought Madison camping at an outdoor music festival and watched in horror as she chased a lost sheep around the camp site, whipping around people's tents while being cheered on by onlookers. One time I heard my roommate yell from the her bathroom, she had turned on the shower and walked away, only to find Madison standing in the tub upon her return, enjoying the warm water. Madison once dove into the lake at a park and swam after ducks for thirty minutes, much to the horror of nearby boaters as she ignored my pleas to come back to shore. While I am only sharing some of the "horror" stories of our time together, I only mention these because nothing that she could have done to embarrass me in her life could make me prepared for her final days.

In February of 2009 I got a phone call from my brother in New York. He was on the way to the vet with a 15 year old Madison, and he was sure that she was dying. I thought back to the last few times I had seen Madison, the fur on her face entirely white and her hearing practically gone. Though she couldn't greet me at the door anymore, I would surprise her on her doggie bed and be delighted with kisses and happy whimpers. I had to fly to New York. I had to say good-bye. So there I was, in yet another boss' office, asking for the time off to go and see about a dog. This boss was much more understanding, if only from the look on my face. The vet couldn't promise that Madison would hold on, but there she was when I arrived, starving herself because of a cancer that had spread to her stomach. I laid down on the floor and put my nose to hers. Her tail wagged faintly and I knew she knew it was me. I said good-bye to the Golden Retriever that had welcomed me to the wonderful world of being a dog person.


A last breath of inspiration
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Monday night I met a woman (I'll call her Mary) at one of our informational events.  After the session, in which she learned about some of the research which indicates how animals can have a profound effect on people's health and happiness, as well as hearing several Pet Partners' stories, she came up to me to share her own story.

Mary said she never had a dog in her life - she just never related to them.  She told me her mother had been in hospice care last year and had been 'at the end'.  For two days she and other family members sat by her mother's bedside and waited for her mom to pass, as the staff kept telling them it could be any minute. Then a staff member popped her head in the room and asked if they would like a visit from a therapy dog.  Mary said she was perplexed - she wasn't sure why a visit would be beneficial, but shrugged 'sure' since she knew her dying mother had always liked dogs. 

The Pet Partners team came in to the room and the dog (she wasn't sure what breed as she's never been a 'dog person') got positioned next to her mom's bedside.  Mary picked up her mom's hand and started petting the dog with it.  She then leaned down to her mom and said, "Mom, a dog came to visit you and you are petting him right now."  Upon hearing this, Mary's mom took in a deep, slow breath - her last breath - and peacefully passed away.  Mary said it was like the dog gave her that one last moment of pleasure and let her know it was okay to pass.  It gave chills to Mary and her other family members as they knew they had just witnessed something very special, and were grateful that their loved one passed in a comforted way.

A few months later, Mary was walking with a friend and they came upon a 10 month-old King Charles Spaniel who was needing a home.  Having this memory of the impact that the dog in the hospice center had made, Mary decided for the first time in her life she would welcome a dog into her home.  Five months later, someone told Mary about Delta Society and now here she was taking her first step to becoming a Pet Partner.  She wants to share her new found appreciation for how dogs can provide comfort and compassion with others, and is excited to start her new journey helping others with her faithful companion at her side.


National Dog Week
Monday, September 21, 2009

This week is National Dog Week - a time to give extra celebration for the special joy and comfort dogs bring to our lives.  As I sit writing this blog, I'm comforted by the pictures and stories of various service and therapy dogs that adorn my office. 

I look up and see Jake's smiling face - a Bernese Mountain Dog/Golden Retriever mix - who has been credited for bringing a woman out of her coma.  

I see Antoine's picture - a Golden Retriever mix - who has been specially trained and is now a service dog helping Tyler, a US veteran who was paralyzed as a result of injuries sustained while serving our country in Afghanistan. 

Then there's Hero - a Rottweiler - who brings comfort to seniors and helps children learn to read.  

There are so many others and I wish I could share stories about each and every one with you...but, I will have to save those stories for later.

As I write this, I am teary-eyed thinking of how many people have been helped by these special dogs - and their human guardians who help to bring the best out of each.  Before I was involved with Delta Society I thought I had understood the 'miracle' of the human-animal bond.  But, I soon realized I hadn't. 

While my own dogs have always have had a special place in my heart and I easily remember all the fun times we shared, I've since learned how much more meaning those relationships held.  Looking back, my dogs were not only my family and my friends but also my 'therapists'.  When I was going through difficult times, it was my dogs who I would always first share my fears and tears with.  It was my dogs who helped me re-focus, and find comfort at times when I didn't want to be around other people.   It was my dogs that I could always count on to help me turn a frown into a smile. 

I look behind me right now and there is my precious Belle, snoozing in her bed. Just looking over at her brings a grin to my face and a warmth to my heart.  Dogs are truly special creatures, and while we should celebrate them every day, it is nice to know that there is a week designated to honor them.  So, as I will be doing, I hope you too find a special way to thank your dog(s) for all the unconditional love and affection they give, and for all their specialness in helping you live a healthier and happier live. 

Big hugs and belly rubs to all the dogs out there!

Literacy Interventions on Four Legs
Friday, September 18, 2009

A ripple of joy quickly spread around the second grade classroom when Angus MacDuff and I stood in the doorway. Excited eyes locked on Angus and soft whispers quickly spread the news that Angus was here! Miss Julie looked up from her reading group and smiled at us both. “Who’s next?” she asked. I was ready, I had my list in hand with the checkmarks that indicated where we had left off last week and I called out the next name on the list. Amy bounced out of her seat and went to her cubby and grabbed a book. We walked out into the carpeted hall and sat down on our Paws to Read quilt.

Amy opened up her Hop on Pop book and petted Angus. She asked him how he was and Angus settled in next to her with his head on her lap. Amy started to read. This limited vocabulary rhyming book was no longer a challenge for Amy. She had become a reader and she had chosen this book to savor and enjoy reading aloud to Angus. Several times Amy stopped to ask Angus questions such as, “Are you listening?” and “Did you like this? This is my favorite!” and “Do you know what happens next? I do!”

Thinking about Amy, I realize that she is one of those wonderful examples of why a concept as simple as reading aloud to a dog works. When we first started working with her, she brightened at the site of the dog but was a very reluctant reader. She chose a book at random and dragged herself behind us out into the hallway where she threw herself down on the floor with a sad sigh. When I asked her what book she had chosen to read, she shrugged, laid it aside and began petting the dog with a little more interest. I introduced Angus, explaining that he was a Blue Merle Shetland Sheepdog who was 11 years old and who just loved to be read to. Amy looked somewhat skeptical and I handed her the book and asked her to read. The book she had chosen was about the weather and not a good choice for a reluctant emerging reader.

The next week, I brought a book for Amy, Harry, The Dirty Dog with limited vocabulary and a funny story. The next time we read together, Amy was ready with her favorite book, Hop on Pop. Several times that year she brought this book to share with Angus. It was the first book she had mastered. It didn’t matter a bit that she had already read it. One day Amy brought the first chapter book out to the hallway to read to Angus. It was a Ramona book and while it challenged Amy, she read it with gusto while Angus laid on the quilt beside her. This was an impressive gain for a child who was barely reading at a pre-primer level. Her word attack skills, her decoding accuracy and her fluency were all improving hand in hand with a new enthusiasm for reading. Amy saw herself as a reader. It was always clear though, Amy was reading for Angus and she prompted and prodded his attention.

Amy was one of many success stories. Am I making a claim that it was all due to her reading sessions with the little Shetland Sheepdog? Not at all, but as a classroom teacher and a college professor, I know the ingredients of practice and feelings of success lead to pleasure that leads to more practice and more success. Angus could provide that nonjudgmental, entirely accepting audience that allowed Amy and all the other children who read to him the opportunity to practice and become accomplished readers. Amy rehearsed and practiced her success as a reader with Hop on Pop. It always gave her joy to read this one. Amy was also fortunate that her teacher, Julie, is a master teacher who provided a literature rich classroom that provided stimulating and enriching reading opportunities as well as strategic skill development and vocabulary acquisition. My claim is that Angus and I were a piece of this environment and we provided opportunities for practice reading aloud, motivation, and joy. These are critical ingredients for emerging readers.

While it is impossible to quantify the contribution made by the Paws to Read dogs, the change in children’s attitudes with the dogs and subsequently the reading task is certainly observable in every case. Learning to read is a complex process and gains are made over time. Every child in every classroom that has read to Angus over the course of a year has made significant gains in their attitude towards reading as well as their skills and comprehension.

Sherry Markel
Guest Blogger & Pet Partner since 2003

Do you have a story you'd like to share, please submit it to storyidea@deltasociety.org.  (Ideally 500 words or less.)

The nurses were incredulous that one small dog could have such a HUGE impact on their patient!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Since 2006, Joy Dorn and Izzy, her precious poodle mix, have touched hundreds of lives through their visits to hospitals, a cancer center, elementary schools, a palliative care unit and many outreach events.

In a letter to Delta Society, Joy shared several touching stories of how Izzy has positively impacted people's lives and truly exemplifies the healing power of pets!

"On one occasion at the cancer center, we saw a lady who was there for the first time. She was in obvious distress and informed me that she was experiencing severe chest pains. The moment I put Izzy in her lap, the chest pains stopped, she visibly calmed down and broke into a huge smile. She told me that she had a history of heart attacks and that we'd been very anxious about her first appointment. Of course, I was amazed at the effect that holding and cuddling Izzy had on this woman's physical condition – and was so grateful that we were visiting at the time of her appointment!

At the cancer center quite often, early in the morning, we visit with children. We are with them the entire time, from the moment they walk into the center to walking out with them to the parking garage. Many times we serve as a diversion for a child when he or she is not being compliant with the radiation technicians. Having Izzy on the treatment table calms the child and gives the technicians the opportunity to do their jobs without upsetting an already ill and scared patient. We are often stopped by staff to provide comfort and solace to them who deal every day with such serious patient issues."

Izzy and Joy also visit a geriatric psychiatric unit. "On a recent visit, we encountered a man who appeared to have no control of his muscles. He slowly made his way toward Izzy jerking uncontrollably. He finally made it to a chair and motioned that he wanted Izzy in his lap. Carefully I placed her in his lap. Amazingly the jerking stopped and he began smiling. I asked if he liked Izzy and he clearly said YES! The unit nurses and therapists gathered around and were incredulous that the touch of one small dog could have such a huge impact on their patient.

Joy says that "Izzy is a very calm sweet dog who loves everyone. She makes patients feel special as if she belongs to them. Izzy has blessed me and those whose lives she touches. Through my volunteer work with Izzy, I have found my calling in life. I know that in this small way, we are contributing to making this a better world. Thank you Delta Society for your Pet Partners Program. It gives those of us who love our animals and want to make a difference in the world along side of them – a magical, miraculous and safe way to achieve our dreams."

Thank you Izzy and Joy for everything you do each week to change and improve people's lives!

Live Harmoniously: decorate with your pets in mind.
Monday, September 14, 2009

Last Saturday morning after I set-up an informational booth for Delta Society at a Children's Book & Fun Fair to support Seattle Children's Hospital I got in my car and headed to my next commitment.  While flipping radio channels I happened upon a talk show hosted by Tami Michaels, an interior designer.  She was sharing a story of one of her earlier clients who wanted her house designed for looks vs. function.  Tami had returned to the house a couple of times as the work progressed, only to discover this woman's dog had been banished to a leash in the garage, and eventually to a crate in the basement - as he had destroyed more than a few things - including a car bumper.  Tami, seeing the dog relinquished to the basement crate, looked the dog in his eyes and told him not to worry that she would 'free' him - and she did...she adopted him. 

The point of Tami sharing this story was that it was a turning point in her life.  As she meets new clients in her interior design work she now always asks about any pets they have before she creates plans.  She is adamant that there are lots of products available that are pet friendly as well as visually appealing and functional for all.  How nice it was to listen to her passionately speak about the important role animals play in our family's lives and how they should be purposely thought of while re-decorating / re-designing our homes - so all can live happily ever after - sharing space harmoniously.


Basic Facts About Service Dogs
Friday, September 11, 2009

At least a couple of times I'm week, I'm asked questions relating to service dogs - so I thought in this blog I'd highlight a few of the most common questions I recieve.

What makes a dog a service dog?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990), a dog is considered a "service dog" if it has been "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." Also according to the ADA, a 'disability' is a "mental or physical condition which substantially limits a major life activity" such as caring for one's self, perfoming manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, as well as some disabilities that may not be visible such as epilepsy.

To be considered a service dog, the dog must be trained to perform tasks directly related to the person's disability.  Service dogs are legally defined (ADA, 1990) and are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. Federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places. Service dogs are not considered 'pets'.

How can I identify if a dog is a service dog and not just a pet?
The simple answer is to ask the handler, “Is this a service dog?” You may also ask what tasks the dog has been trained to do for the handler. Please be aware that a service dog can be any breed or size, and is not required to wear a vest identifying him/her as a service dog.

What if the service dog barks, growls, or whines?
First, find out what happened before taking action. Maybe someone stepped on the
dog’s tail causing it to yelp.  Also, the dog may have barked in response to the handler’s medical condition. Finally, if the service dog’s behavior is disruptive or destructive you may ask the handler to remove it from the premises. The handler is responsible for any damage done by his or her service dog.

Do you have other questions about service dogs.  Check our website, as there is a wealth of more information available.  You can even download a brochure, Facts You Should Know About Service DogsThis is a good piece for both handlers of service dogs to have with them in case someone asks them questions, as well as for employers to print and distribute to their employees who may have people with service dogs enter their place of business.


What I’m celebrating on my 55th birthday!
Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Today I am fifty five years young. It’s been quite a wild ride to reach this age and I can assure you, there were many, MANY times my parents were convinced I’d not survive to 21 or 30 or….well, you get the picture.

I was always the kid who broke all the house rules, pushed all the envelopes, caused a ruckus or two at virtually every school I attended w/ protests or petitions to save some animal species or protect human rights, drove sports cars waaaay too fast, jumped out of planes and dove off cliffs, went white water kayaking during storms, etc…..

And, yep – I probably caused my daddy to go bald from continually pulling out his hair while asking “what the heck has she done NOW?!”

While calming my father down over the decades from whatever my latest ‘antics’ were - my dear little feisty mom, Rebel, always managed to nurture my love for all creatures great and small …and, instilled in me a desire to reach out and help others in whatever community we happened to be living in as we traveled the country and world with the Marine Corps.

So, today I celebrate my birthday and give thanks to my parents for giving me the latitude to make many mistakes (and hopefully learn from them!) and for guiding me to be a better citizen on this planet by volunteering with organizations that make a positive impact in humans’ and animals’ lives.

One of my favorite charitable organizations is Delta Society. I am continually impressed and, yes, in awe, of the inspiring work they are doing around the globe to help improve people’s lives through the human-animal bond. I’ve seen Pet Partners teams in action and had the privilege of talking with many people whose lives have been dramatically changed and enhanced by Delta Society.

So, I’m celebrating my birthday by making a donation to Delta Society to thank them for enriching my life these past two years and for giving me such joy through volunteering at their corporate headquarters. I’ve been blessed w/ some new friendships which I cherish, have met many wonderful Pet Partners teams who dedicate untold hours of their time each week to visit people in need, and have witnessed the ‘miracles at end of the leash’ - how interactions with animals and humans truly help humans physically and psychologically!

Thank you to everyone involved with Delta Society – you are my best birthday present this year!


Remembering Summer
Monday, September 07, 2009

Can you believe it?  It's Labor Day weekend all ready.  Halloween candy and costumes are in the stores!  In Seattle, its rainy again and the temperature has dropped - its feeling like Fall.  

As I think back on the Summer, I'm remembering all the wonderful people (and their pets) I met at the many fairs and festivals I attended over the last three months.  People who shared their stories with me of how their pets have enriched their lives. 

There was a woman who told me when she was diagnosed with cancer, it was her cat who helped her get through it.  Her cat lay with her - his fur on her skin provided added warmth and his soothing purring comforted her.  Her cat was the first being she was able to 'open up to' and express her fears.  She's in remission now, and credits the companionship of her cat as being a major factor.

Another woman shared with me how her dog grew to alert her when her blood sugar was low.  She's a diabetic and at first couldn't figure out why her dog would keep barking at her at different times for what she thought was no reason.  She eventually made the connection that her dog's 'strange behavior' coincided with low readings when she tested her blood glucose levels.

And then there were the many Pet Partners I talked with who continue to inspire me with their stories of the visits they make - hospitalized patients who's pain seems to diminish just by petting their dog, seniors who's faces 'light up' when they bring their dog in for a visit, and children who grow more confident as they read to their non-judgemenal pooch.

Animals truly are miraculous beings.  Thank you to all the people I've met this Summer who stopped by the Delta Society booths and shared your stories.  It was my pleasure meeting you and I hope to see you again soon.  You made my Summer a truly special one.


A Golden Who Inspires ‘Golden’ Memories
Friday, September 04, 2009

Heidi (Golden Retriever) was adopted at 8 months by Helena and Bob Bunker. Heidi’s first family had four children under the age of 10 and didn’t realize the time needed to train and take care of a puppy – so they contacted the Golden Retriever Rescue Group to find a new home for her. Lucky Helena!

Helena spent time working with Heidi – she quickly picked up on her training and learned that outside was the best potty spot, as well as many other obedience skills to help her be a well socialized dog.

When Helena retired, she wanted to spend time helping the elderly. When she learned about the Delta Society Pet Partners program and that she could visit seniors with Heidi at her side, she knew this was perfect for her. Helena and Heidi now spend about 1 ½ hours every other week visiting individuals with Alzheimers and other seniors at Merrill Gardens in Monroe, WA.

The residents look forward to their visits and have commented that they do not know what they would do without regularly seeing Heidi. For some people, Heidi and Helena are their only visitors. Helena finds this work very rewarding if nothing else then to see the seniors’ faces light up when they see Heidi coming their way. Often the patients with Alzheimers may be asleep or unresponsive, on a sofa or in a wheelchair, until Helena lets them know Heidi is there to visit. Then they become alert and start talking while petting Heidi, remembering in their own combination of words of the pets they had.

When asked if there has been one particularly memorable visit over the 6 years that they’ve been a Pet Partners team, Helena thinks of one gentleman – we’ll call him ‘John’. John was a famous sporting/hunting dog trainer who developed Alzheimer’s. When she brought Heidi to visit, he became enthusiastic and worked with Helena to put Heidi through his entire training routine. She says that John could not converse otherwise, but when he was ‘training’ Heidi, “he was alert and functional in the moment”. And, Heidi performed perfectly for John.

Helena notes that watching Heidi do her thing is quite remarkable. For example, “she knows when she needs to be extremely gentle.” They would visit a 107 year old woman who walked just with a cane and she could always trust Heidi to walk respectfully at her side. Bring Heidi around active children though and she can be rambunctious with the best of them.

Why does Helena spend her time doing this? It is simple – she sees the joy in the people’s faces when they see Heidi. She sees those living ‘in their own world’ come back to the present – if only for a few moments. She also gets to hear some captivating tales from seniors who love to share their stories of riding to school on a horse or living with no electricity, while they pet Heidi. “I couldn’t help these people in the same way if Heidi wasn’t at my side. Heidi is the opener. She’s the one who captures their attention. ”


With them, love is unconditional, comfort freely given….
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Splash, Rusty and Spyderman have worked their magic as Pet Partners with their mom, Michelle Penfold, for many years. Splash and Rusty were abandoned, abused dogs that were given a second chance after being rescued by Michelle. Spyderman is her gorgeous horse, adopted from Colorado Horse Rescue, who is now a retired Pet Partner.

Michelle and her three Pet Partners have spent inordinate & extraordinary amounts of time sharing the human-animal connection with people in need ~ from volunteering at several medical centers in her region of Colorado to reading programs at local schools and libraries to grief centers for children and helping military veterans and their families.

“It’s all about their eyes really. They draw you in, they can calm your spirit, and they can sympathize with your pain or sparkle with your joy. They stand with you in moments of despair, and sit with you when you need comfort. They wordlessly know where they are needed, and find the soul who is hurting.

They fill their visits with interactions, special moments that bond them to those around them and those they meet”, says Michelle of her registered Pet Partners dogs and horse. One story she shared involves a woman sitting in a hospital’s surgical waiting area. “Splash nudged the woman’s hands that were holding her head in deep sorrow. The woman looked up, saw Splash, started to stroke her silky ears and began to weep. She was heavily burdened, and Splash took some of her load from her. As she wept, Splash moved closer to her until this woman and enfolded her arms around Splash.

In her letter of thanks, the woman whom Splash befriended expressed her appreciation of having been touched by Splash, and for being given this safe opportunity to express her sorrow and pain. She noted at the end of her letter that she saw peace and caring in Splash.”

Sincere thanks to Splash, Rusty, Spyderman and Michelle for making such an impressive contribution in your community and helping people recognize the amazing healing gifts animals provide.



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