Pet Therapy: Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles

In many ways, my human mommy/blogging assistant and I are a team. We do our best teamwork when we’re bringing love and leaving smiles for the Visiting Pet Program. We started the process of becoming a pet therapy team about two years ago. Because most of our work would be done in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, our initial evaluation simulated what we would experience during our visits: a raucous round of bingo, walkers and wheelchairs navigating hallways, slightly-less-than-gentle petting, unexpected loud noises. My manners were perfect, I handled each step of the evaluation beautifully, and we moved on to our probationary visits. During three months of probationary visits, we were paired with human buddies (senior members of the Visiting Pet Program) who watched as we met with the residents at several different nursing homes. And then in December 2015, my human mommy and I became a full-fledged pet therapy team for the Visiting Pet Program.

Mommy and I do our regular monthly visits at a place called Colonial Oaks Living Center. We spend about an hour going from room to room to see our friends. They love telling us about all the dogs they’ve had through the years. I love being petted and told how pretty and sweet I am. It can be kind of exhausting, so sometimes I lie down and take a quick nap. No one seems to mind. In fact, I think my little naps are somehow comforting to my friends.

We also do special visits. Mommy and I have been to a summer camp at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I was a big hit there. All the campers said I was super soft. A couple of months ago we visited Camp Tiger, a free camp for children who are physically and/or mentally challenged organized by the LSU Health Sciences Center and staffed by medical school students. Last fall, we attended the blessing of the animals at Christ Church Cathedral.

Tallulah and my human daddy joined us at that visit . . . unofficially, of course. The humans thought Tallulah could use a little blessing. Turns out an exorcism might have been more appropriate at that point in her life. My little sister has calmed down a lot since then, and one day I think she’ll make an excellent therapy dog . . . but not yet.

Back to the real team. Our favorite visits are the ones that we do with university students before they take big tests. We’ve helped students at Loyola University relax before finals and calmed the nerves of physical therapy students in the LSU School of Allied Health Professions. Most of our university visits have been with the students at Tulane University School of Medicine.

They have two really important tests each year. There’s a lot of pressure, and they can get pretty stressed out. You should have seen this group when they walked into the room where we were meeting: eyes focused on the ground, shoulders hunched, fists clenched. Within five minutes we were all on the ground. They were petting and hugging me, laughing, sharing photos of their dogs back home, and snapping selfies with yours truly. It felt good to bring a little love their way, and I definitely left some super big smiles. Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you have a great time. And I hope you remember to bring love and leave smiles. Cheers!


37 Comments on “Pet Therapy: Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles”

  1. Amy says:

    Miss Lee, you are one special pup. Our Lexi was a therapy dog at a Children’s Hospital for almost 10 years. She wore a little smile the whole time she was there, which also made the kids smile back at her (the only place she ever smiled). I have heard of visiting college students, but never knew a dog who did it. Hurray for you!

  2. Gorgeous pictures of you doing amazing work, Miss HL. I WILL be bringing love and leaving smiles this weekend. Mom and I will visit the VA nursing home to see all the old soldiers. They will also tell stories of dogs they used to have.

    Love and licks,

    • One of our favorite residents we visit is an old soldier. One day he told us all about when his ship was torpedoed during WWII and he waited in the water to be rescued. Such a brave man. I can just imagine how the VA nursing home residents’ faces light up when they see you coming. You and your mom are a special team.

  3. CarolMaeWY says:

    It’s great to see you happy at work Miss Harper Lee. No wonder everyone smiles back.

  4. pibblelife says:

    Miss Harper Lee you are a super heroine! Keep up the great work spreading your love and joy to everyone! I love it! 🙂

  5. Ranger says:

    High Paws on doing such a loving and supportive job. Lots of peeps need some Harper Lee lovin.

    • Thank you so much, Ranger. We also enjoy visiting with the people who work at our assisted living facility. They have a hard–and sometimes sad–job, so they need Harper Lee lovin’ too!

  6. We are so proud of you Harper Lee! I’m sure Tallulah will follow in your paw steps and be amazing without an exorcism. ROFL! ♥

  7. Ogee says:

    You have found your calling, sweet girl!

  8. Love that saying…bringing love and leaving smiles! Our program doesn’t have a formal saying like that. We just all tail wag to try and inspire them to come up with something as clever. Good girl, Miss Harper Lee. You are doing pawsome work and I know what you’re going through each time you visit peeps and make them smile. Ear scratches!
    Your fellow pet therapist and fur-iend,

    • Oh, Sam, it’s not important to have a formal saying. It’s just important to wag your tail and share your love . . . which I know you do magnificently. You and your mom are a great team and we love reading about your visits. ❤

  9. llindaxxo says:

    Aww it’s wonderful that Miss Harper Lee is doing such amazing work! So inspiring for other pups!

  10. You’re an inspiration MHL. We hope to get Kloe involved in a therapy program once she gets her exorcism. At 16 months, as you know from your sissie Tallulah, she still has a little too much energy but we think she can do a good job like you one day.

    • If Kloe is anything like Tallulah, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of maturing between 18 months and two years. Not that we’re completely out of the crazy puppy woods, mind you, but there is definite improvement. 😉 Mommy’s goal is to have her ready to be evaluated for the program by the time she’s three. We’ll see!

      • Thanks for the encouragement Suzanne. Kloe is a sweetie like Talulah I’m sure. And yes we were thinking along the same timeline for her entry into therapy service. Kali could probably do it but she is such a one man dog (me) that I wonder if she would be interested enough in those we were there to provide therapy to. What do you think?

    • Tallulah is actually far more affectionate than Harper Lee, but Harper Lee can really turn it on . . . for anybody other than her own humans. 😉 Kali might surprise you. By the way, is Kali named after Kali Hart wine? Kali Hart has been on our Golden name list since we saw the Kali Hart Talbott wines. Our first Golden was named Talbot, after the store, so it’s a nice sort of connection.

      • Kali just got her AKC Good Citizen Certificate so who knows; I should probably at least give her the opportunity to serve, right? But no she is not named after the wine but. Like the idea as Holly and I are great fans of wine. 😉. Before moving to the mountains we lived in Livermore, CA which has 50 wineries within 15 minutes of where our home was. Talk about heaven… thx for the encouragement with Kali. Take care.

  11. Oh gurl, I just knows you bring joy and happiness where ever you go! I knows you make my Ma smile with your gorgeous furs! I am so glads that you are helpin’ all those senior peeps smile and laugh ~ sometimes that can be hard, especially when they are lonely and hurting. You are the bestest! Keep up the FABulous work!
    Ruby ♥
    pees: Ma wants to knows if she can schedule an exorcism for MOI…..

    • Shucks, Ruby, you’ve made my head big with all those nice things you said. You’re so right. A lot of the people we visit are very lonely and hurting. They just want someone to sit and listen, and I’m very good at doing both.
      P.S. Tell your Ma you don’t need an exorcism. You just need another margarita!

  12. Piglove says:

    Squeals with excitement. Oh beautiful, I knew you were special in my heart but now I *know* you are special in everyone’s hearts. What awesome work you do sweets. You are absolutely wonderful helping others. ❤ XOXO – Bacon

    • Thank you so much, Bacon. That’s very sweet of you to say. We’ve had cats and rabbits in our program. I think it’s time for a little piggy. Imagine the smiles you’d bring walking into those rooms. 🙂

  13. Jan K says:

    What a beautiful thing you and your Mom do, Miss Lee! I love how you help out at all kinds of different places, brightening the lives of so many different groups of people who need it! ♥

    • Thank you so much. The variety really makes it fun. I’m hoping to get involved with the Reading to Rover program. Who doesn’t love a bedtime story . . . even in the afternoon? 🙂

  14. Maryanne says:

    We finally get to see your Mommy and Daddy! 🙂

  15. Thank you for your amazing pet therapy work that you do!!

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