I have been a lifelong volunteer, starting at age twelve as a Candy Striper in a local hospital. They don’t have this role any longer but it was a fantastic way to encourage youth to volunteer and feel the joy of giving.
After many years in this capacity I moved on to other forms of volunteerism, mostly inspired by my mother who worked endlessly for her chosen charity.
Many years later my corporate career centered on volunteerism managing the Corporate Volunteer Program and Community Outreach for a major cosmetic company.
Every step of my life has been touched either as the volunteer or the recipient of the generosity of others.
As a patient in a hospital for several months I understood how critical the kind voice of a volunteer could be.
And as that volunteer I came to understand how important being a listening ear could be.
After a lengthy illness many years ago I decided to get a dog! And not just any dog, but Coco. Coco came to me at the lowest point in my life and helped me rise to the highest.
For almost fifteen years she was my steady companion and constant partner in this thing we call Animal Assisted Therapy.
As a Pet Partner Instructor and Evaluator I look at the human end of the leash even before I look at the animal.
Is this a person I would want visiting a family member or myself?
Is this a person I trust understands her animal and wants to do this?
Is this a person who “gets it” and understands the responsibility of bringing her animal out into the public?
Is this person who has empathy not sympathy?
Is this a person and animal that inspires confidence?
Is this a person I can trust as a Love Dog team member to keep confidential things confidential?
Is this a person I can trust to have my back when working side by side?
Is this a person who will recognize when it is time to retire their beloved canine or feline companion as I had to with Coco, Kirby and perhaps all too soon with Petey?
Is this person reliable and dependable and above all else, joyful?
The Love Dog team is blessed with humans that exemplify volunteerism and understand that the true currency for volunteers is the look on a child’s face as he interacts with our dog, the young person who reaches up to touch a dog for the first time, the senior who remembers the dog’s name but not his own, the client who has little language but the biggest heart, the young boy who bonds so with one dog the little dog gains more than he gives and on and on.
The stories are endless.
The giving is limitless.
The currency is real … and measurable and lasts far longer than the dollar.
To be a Pet Partner Love Dog therapy team the human has to lead and always remember we are not just shoving dogs at people.
We are changing lives.
Including our own.