I first discovered pet therapy while teaching children with learning disabilities. This experience exceeded my expectations as I saw reluctant readers become enthusiastic about reading because of the therapy dogs that visited our class. Lucky for me, Joan Baer, co-founder of CCPT, was one of the volunteers at my school. When my friend of almost 20 years told me of her plans to start a new pet therapy group I was excited because I knew this would be the type of organization that I’d been searching for. In 2014, my Schnauzer, Smokey and I passed our test and began volunteering. Of course being a retired teacher I gravitated to school visits wanting to give back on the “other end of the leash”.
Luckily we spent over 6 years in three schools providing pet therapy to dozens of students that Smokey helped motivate. He was a nonjudgemental listener whose calm presence provided unconditional love. This experience has been gratifying on so many levels as I watched the kids become better readers, saw Smokey seek out the most vulnerable students, and calm the ones that had a fear of dogs.
At 14, Smokey has slowed down. So after a career of many years, I’ve decided it was time for him to retire. He has given me such pleasure and our work has been so rewarding and appreciated its hard to give that up, but he deserves to be loved and spoiled for the rest of his life.