In 2013, when we found Chelsea through the Sato Project, she was so sweet and gentle that we immediately knew she would be good for working with people. A friend suggested Bideawee’s Pet Therapy program and her future was sealed. The team that led the evaluation and the training made it a very enjoyable experience. Looking back on that day, I think that the dogs knew innately what to do; it was the handlers that seemed to learn the most.
Since graduating and receiving credentials from Pet Partners, Chelsea and I have been busy visiting nursing homes, adult day care facilities, hospitals and rehabs. We cover libraries and elementary schools for Bideawee’s Reading to Dogs program as well as Stressbuster sessions for older students during finals. We often have the opportunity to talk to other volunteers about this program and it’s amazing how many people we meet who want to sign up for pet therapy.
Chelsea and I have been volunteering for just over one year now. Of all the places we visit, the most rewarding experience for me is at the adult day care. The people love seeing Chelsea. They bake her cookies and are so excited to present them to us. We now have a lifetime supply. The Reading to Dogs program is Chelsea's favorite gig. She lies down in the middle of a circle and almost immediately falls asleep. The children are upset when they try to show her the pictures and her eyes are closed. I explain that they did their job by reading her to sleep.
This "work" that I do is important to me not only because I get to spend the day with my sweet dog but because I see how pet therapy affects the people we visit. Everyone I meet is happy to see Chelsea. They tell me about their pet at home or pets they have had in the past. Sometimes they just sit quietly and pet Chelsea. I get thanked every day by either the patients or the staff. It's great to be reminded that I'm not the only one feeling the benefit of these visits.
I am very lucky to have a dog with the temperament to work with people this way, and I have Bideawee to thank for making these experiences possible.