A Retiring Volunteer’s Life-Changing Journey

Due to health issues, the time has come for me to retire from my time as a Pet Partners volunteer. I cannot fully express how much these years have meant to me. I cannot count the number of people to whom I have said that my years as a Pet Partners handler and team evaluator are the years I am most proud of in my life.
 
I met the most wonderful people when I visited with Willo, my papillon. Together we shared countless precious moments with people and their families, many stories that would make you laugh and cry. Willo was a very special little dog and she brought smiles wherever she went.
 
Willo has been gone since 2008, but there are still people in one nursing facility who remember her by name, even though they can’t remember what they had for breakfast. They didn’t remember my name, but they sure remembered Willo’s.
 
As a hospice volunteer, Willo laid quietly on the bed next to a client we had visited for three years. As the woman took her last breath, her hand rested on Willo’s head.
 
In the reading program, Willo had a first grader who read to her in the classroom during lunch. Walking her through the halls to get to the classroom was always a laugh. The students would see her and shout “Willo is here,” and come running. They just had to pet her and say hello.
 
Being a team evaluator for Pet Partners has been no less rewarding for me. To watch handlers pass the evaluation, see their smiles and give them hugs – it made my heart swell. I always took the time to explain each exercise and make sure the handlers understood. After the evaluation, I took them to the other side of the room away from the other volunteers and went over their test with them. I kept a box of Kleenex handy for those who did not make it and gave them advice on what they needed to work on. I always tried to send them off on a positive note.
 
I want to express my sincere thanks for the incredible opportunity of being a part of the program. I miss it already, but I will carry the wonderful memories with me forever. Thank you to Pet Partners for all the help and support with questions and situations that arose with the evaluations. Thank you to everyone who I had the pleasure of interacting with over the years, who helped make this journey so incredibly special for me.
 
Hugs and warm fuzzies!
 
Story provided by Judy Weldgen-Gibson