Donna & Cora: Wide-Ranging Impact

Cora was 17 years old at the time she passed, and was involved in therapy work for over 10 years. During that time we lived in four different states.

A mixed-breed medium-sized therapy dog wearing a Pet Partners vest.

While in Arizona we volunteered at Mayo Clinic Hospital, where Cora would bring smiles to chemotherapy and radiation patients and their families during stressful times. Pediatric patients woke up after procedures to a smiling canine face that soothed away frightened tears. Hospital staff would pause during their work day when we entered a unit, and tell Cora how much they needed to spend just a few minutes with her to ease their workload and tension. It was also in Arizona that my husband Edwin became a second handler for Cora.

Teaming up with our friends Carol and Mia in Arizona, Cora and I served as the neutral dog team during an evaluation at an American Indian reservation for the first ever Read With Me therapy dog program at their reservation library.

Cora and I served as volunteers at the Phoenix Zoo for a program called Future Vets. What a fun time with eager young students, who learned how to wrap a wounded pup! Cora was so patient while having her paw wrapped by over a dozen prospective young vets.

While living in Florida we visited and spent time with hospice patients. We also visited senior centers where she would join in an exercise class while doing the Hokey Pokey!

In Maryland we became frequent visitors in an Alzheimer’s unit where Cora would spend afternoons “bowling” with her special friends. I taught her how to push the ball with her paws, and the ball would then strike the pins down. Also during our visits, some of the residents with gross motor problems caused by strokes would use their affected limb to brush her and place treats inside puzzle toys for Cora to sniff out. Animal-assisted therapy at its finest!

Texas was home for us three different times and it’s where we called home to the end. In Texas one of our proudest encounters was becoming part of the Wounded Warrior program. Cora was such a smart girl! It was here that she would “salute” while we visited Army personnel at one of the local military camps and rehab centers, bringing smiles to countless soldiers who needed to feel at peace with themselves.

We had our last team evaluation two years ago just prior to COVID-19. At her age of 15 years old, I wondered if it might not be time for Cora to retire; but we passed the evaluation with a Complex qualification rating. She may have slowed down but she still enjoyed doing her job!

During all our years together as a therapy dog team we met thousands of individuals, young and old. So many memories of her easing fears, turning tears into smiles, and just making a few moments better in everyone’s day. Thank you, Pet Partners, for leaving my heart full with those memories.

A woman and a medium-sized mixed-breed dog look at the camera

—submitted by handler Donna Jackson