By Happy, Lady & Lucy, Happy Lady Productions
We Cavaliers pride ourselves on our gift to bring comfort to others. We are not officially therapy dogs (there tends to be too much tongue involved on our part for us to go pro, apparently), but we give it all the same, and we do it with gusto. It is our gift. And this is why we are especially in awe of the dogs and other pets that provide comfort on a more professional basis. These therapy pets and their humans that help people pick up the pieces after a traumatic event or during a health crisis are unsung heroes. We want to bark about them whenever we can.
We support Gabriel’s Angels, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Specifically, it helps children of all ages in crisis. Kids that have had very hard lives and not much consistency of love, if any, in their lives. The Therapy Teams at Gabriel’s Angels try to fill this gap. They show up at the same time – without fail – on a weekly or bi-monthly basis with the same dogs and the same humans to the same crisis centers. It is a huge commitment, but they know that these children (over 13,000 and growing) are counting on these visits. They look forward to them and depend on them and as they do, and the Therapy Teams come through for them, they start to learn about love, empathy, trust and respect. Just this simple act of them showing up regualry is more than these children have ever experienced.
Every time these children meet with a Therapy Team, there is a “teachable moment,” such as this one with a Golden Doodle named Hope, her handler Pam Reinke, and a group of unwilling teenage boys wondering why they should listen to Hope’s heartbeat with a stethoscope:
“What’s the point of all this, Ms. Pam? This is stupid!” The biggest boy challenged [Pam], “You say dogs have unconditional love. How can that be true when the newest religious and scientific studies say that dogs have no souls! How can they possibly know love?”
[Pam answered], “I find it hard to understand how any study could substantiate that as fact. It is a personal belief… a feeling you get in your gut about something that is right or wrong. A dog sees you from the inside out. They see you for what you are and accept you for who you are. Hope doesn’t care about the walls you have erected to keep hurt out, or the show you put on to appear larger than your peers. Dogs see through all of that… Whether you believe this or not, Hope came today and changed each heart in this room to match her heart.”
A long moment of silence followed. The biggest boy said, “Thank you – that was a good answer. I can understand that.”
By the time [Pam and Hope] were ready to conclude [their] visit these teenagers had lowered their defenses and allowed themselves to care – if even for a moment… Hope had managed to melt negative feelings away and open hearts.
There can never be too many therapy dogs, handlers or Helping Hand volunteers to reach out to these children. To learn more, please visit Gabriel’s Angels.
Husband-and-wife creative team, photographer Dan Merchant and author Emily Randolph, run Happy Lady Productions, a philanthropic book publisher supporting animal rescue and pet therapy programs. Book titles include: It’s a King’s Life series, ‘Some Days You’re the Dog… Some Days, the Hydrant!’ and ‘Limericks by The Brothers Randolph’. Upcoming 2013 releases include: ‘Dogs Are… Just Like You! a book specially produced for Gabriel’s Angels; ‘It’s a King’s Life in Phoenix; ‘It’s a King’s Life in Aspen; and ‘Handfeeding Handbook: 5 Easy Steps to a Well-Trained, Happy Dog.’