Story by Sherry Gavanditti
You won't find this therapist among the skillfully trained staff at Menorah Park's Peter B. Lewis Aquatic and Therapy Center on the Menorah Park Campus, but she's nearby. In fact, she's right down the hallway, visiting residents and bringing smiles to their faces.
Looking at her sensitive brown eyes, the lightly drawn eyebrows, the generous smile, her urge to share kisses with everyone who comes across her path, one would never know that Kasey, the wonder therapy dog who visits Menorah Park Campus in Beachwood, Ohio a few times each month, and who sits patiently while the children at the Mentor Public Library practice reading to her once a month, was once the “wildest thing on four paws!”
According her owner, Diane Young, when young Kasey first came to her she was a Dick Goddard Second Chance Rescue Dog, and the dog had serious issues. One serious issue was to scratch and chew up every thing from the carpeting to the drapes to the furniture, and everything else in her path, causing thousands of dollars in damage. She also had the tendency to chew on herself as well, and escape every chance she got! Houdini would be jealous of Kasey's tricks!
Diane consulted an expert and found that Kasey, the Malamute Siberian Husky mix, was mostly bored. At a year old, she also had a lot of puppy-spunk. That explains why Kasey invented ways to occupy her mind and her time, and to use up her abundant supply of energy. She invented a game called “destroy the house” and “hide bread,” stealing and hiding bread products in the couch to save and proudly present to Diane when she came home (she still enjoys that game) according to Diane.
About ten years ago, Diane saw the positive affect animals had on people with ailing health and realized that dogs could be more than just a pet. She could visit the sick, the aging, the young; and make them smile, and learn, and heal.
According to the CDC, pets can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness, while they increase opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities, and socialization, so it was a good call by Diane. She took Kasey the destructor for the training at the age of seven when she started to listen better, and Kasey's life changed forever; she passed the test and received certification as a true therapy dog.
Now, at nine years old, she still has abundant energy and loves to pull Diane on walks to the point that Diane said she has ended up on her hind-side a few times, but Diane said Kasey has matured, at least when she does her volunteer work. She found her calling in life as a dog that brings smiles, and healing to those around her.
“Kasey’s a totally different dog when she comes to Menorah Park,” Diane said. “She enjoys being here.” Diane began bringing Kasey to campus last year when she visited her father here and officially started her volunteer work in February. “She sits still and lets me put her Menorah Park Volunteer badge and her special red bandana on,” Diane explains, saying she now even waits patiently in the passenger seat in a mannerly fashion in the car until she is allowed out to visit.
Kasey knows exactly where she wants to go and gives everyone the same amount of time. Staff, residents and family members all know her by name and she loves to give them all kisses. She recently showed off her new raincoat at the Friedman Pavilion on Campus, where residents laughed and complimented Kasey’s new look. Kasey doesn’t like the rain, but she loves the snow. Now, she can visit anytime, rain or shine!
Diane urges anyone with a pet with a gentle demeanor to please consider therapy training. “It brings smiles, healing, and a good feeling to residents, and if Kasey can do it, any dog can! The bottom line is that therapy work is enjoyable for everyone,” she said.
Kasey sits in the lobby chair waiting for the next person to greet, instinctively knowing she’s more than just a dog; she’s a friend, a healer, and a special part of the Menorah Park Campus family. There are other special therapy dogs who visit as well. There’s Riley, the big white friendly face who enjoys getting his picture taken with residents, Montana, who looks like Lassie, along with Spanky, the little spunky dog, and both enjoy visiting Stone Gardens residents.
These well-loved animals bring therapeutic warmth, healing and happiness to campus residents, family and staff. Stop by for a visit and feel the warmth and love that comes from these magnificent animals.
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