We foster and rescue dogs and I am always assessing them for the aptitude for this kind of work. I know there are other groups that offer therapy dog certifications but after a lot of research I chose Pet Partners for the comprehensive training.

It was funny, when I started the training I had two dogs who I wanted to work with, Beau and Balsam. Both passed the program without a problem; however, it became clear to me after a few visits that Balsam didn’t really care enough about the people, she was more interested in the treats. So I retired her.

A woman in a white blouse holding a grizzled black mixed-breed dogBeau, however…well, my work with him at the nursing home was the most powerful and transformative experience of my life. Which is interesting because I initially thought I would volunteer anywhere OTHER than at a nursing home. It was very clear I was not the one doing the work. Beau was the volunteer and I was lucky to bear witness. He carefully and knowingly tended to each client, their family members and the staff. I became a hospice volunteer and sat eleventh hour vigils because Beau showed me how to share love and be fully present. I miss them. I miss him, but he opened the door to a calling for me.

He passed away in January 2019. We had stopped going to the nursing home a while before that because of his extreme arthritis and IBD. We tried taking abbreviated visits but he always wanted to go further down the hall. It’s like he wanted to see ALL of his normal clients each time.

I’m sure you hear this all the time. But I just wanted to say thank you. I’ll know when the right dog crosses my path again. Until then I am learning about the other side of volunteering (as a human) with those in hospice and memory care.

submitted by handler Susan Koppang