UPDATE: In honor of our friend Bobby, in October 2015 we welcomed Hero Dogs Robert Grant Kreider – “Bobby” into our Program.
Sometimes at Hero Dogs our service-dogs-in-training are released from the program. The good news is that oftentimes these dogs choose a new career path . . . they become Therapy Dogs!
Established in 2014, Hero Dogs’ Therapy Dog Program is now reaching retired and prior war Veterans, a population often overlooked and underserved by programs for Veterans. Our Therapy Dog Program is a way to better utilize the valuable skills of those dogs released from our service dog training (most often for reasons related to physical health).
As therapy dogs, these dogs continue to help make a difference in people’s lives, putting all of their training and hard work to good use. Our therapy dogs are also starting to venture into doing Animal Assisted Therapy, where they work with the physical therapist to help in physical therapy sessions. These Hero Dogs are great motivators at getting people to participate. They make the therapy sessions fun and help time pass quickly.
One of the people that the dogs visit regularly is a man named Bobby. Bobby lives at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington and really loves working with the Hero Dogs. Bobby is a Veteran and was a paratrooper for the US Army, serving from 1943-1947. He started out in the 13th Airborne Division and then went into the 82nd Airborne Division. He was in the 153rd Anti-Aircraft AA Regiment and made 30 paratroop jumps total. He served in Germany, France, and Belgium.
During Bobby’s first visit with the Hero Dogs therapy dog team, he was very sleepy and not talking very much. The therapist told us that she was unsure if he would wake up enough to interact with the dogs; she told us that his best friend visited him earlier that day and he did not even wake up then. Luckily, dogs have a special way with people and seem to know just what to do!
Hero Dogs’ therapy dog “Teddy” walked up to Bobby and rested his head in Bobby’s lap. Once the therapist rested Bobby’s hand on top of “Teddy’s” head, Bobby began to slowly pet “Teddy” who then started licking Bobby’s hands; this brought a smile to Bobby’s face. He started laughing and telling “Teddy” what a good dog he was. At first, it was hard to understand Bobby’s speech but the more he interacted with “Teddy” the more clear his speech became. Soon Bobby was wide awake and playing ball with therapy dogs “Grant” and “Radar.”
Bobby loves playing ball and often makes the comment, “You are so good, I would like to have you on my team!” Since Hero Dogs’ first visit with Bobby, he now comes at least once a week to work with the therapy dogs. Just by asking if he would like to see the Hero Dogs, Bobby now gets excited and alert. One of his favorite dogs to work with is “Grant” because Bobby’s middle name is “Grant,” and it was also the name of Bobby’s favorite uncle. “Grant” and Bobby love to play ball together, and Bobby is now able to throw the ball all the way across the room! During his last therapy visit, Bobby was able to stand up out of his wheelchair and throw the ball a few times for “Grant!” The Hero Dogs love visiting Bobby just as much as Bobby loves coming to work with them.
Our Therapy Dog Program is a great way for our “honorably discharged” Hero Dogs to be able to continue to interact with Veterans, enriching the lives of retired Veterans in many ways.