Today was no ordinary Saturday. It's one I had eagerly anticipated since receiving a request to speak to Caring Canines (www.caringcanines.org), a dedicated therapy dog group in the Greater Boston area. I have a special spot in my heart for therapy dogs since my mother benefitted from a therapy dog who visited her adult day care.
What a heartwarming group of unselfish people make up the Caring Canines membership! I wasn't surprised.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with Therapy Dogs. Not every dog is right for this job but for those who are, and for their owners, they bring a world of caring into the lives of the lonely, ill, infirm.
Caring Canines, one of many such groups throughout the U.S. and probably many other countries, take their dogs on regular visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, day care centers for the elderly, etc. Anywhere people can use a smile, soft fur to pat, and unconditional love.
For some, a visit can mark the first time someone has spoken or smiled in months or even years. For family members and hard-working staff members, the visits to patients also brings smiles and a chance to relax.
After I spoke, many members related what the visits are like for them, how much they, as well as their dogs, benefit. Just walking in and out of a building can take 15 minutes while people come up to pet the dog. Even those accidental meetings are helpful and welcome.
They also have special programs along with their regular therapy dog visits. Their Hug-a-Pet program brings dogs to at-risk children in residential homes, as well as children who are hospitalized and those in Special Needs classrooms. An Entertainment Team brings dogs to do tricks at Children's Hospital, while another, a Critical Response Team, comforts those who are in the throes of an emergency.
The visits are, of course, free of charge and all of the people involved are volunteers.
Sure, they could be out doing other things with their lives. But they have chosen to share their dogs and that unconditional love with others, asking nothing in return. But what they do get in return is not just the knowledge that they have brightened other lives but that they are connected to other people in a very special way. The experiences touch their hearts as well.
Thanks to the volunteers' generosity of spirit and sharing the world becomes a little brighter place for those in need of light at the end of the tunnel.