He just gives and gives

Jerry and Shannon Leonard, Volunteer

Jerry and Shannon have a new pet therapy dog, Turbo Pablos. He’s a retired racing greyhound who knows commands in Spanish and English. He loves meeting people at hospitals, nursing homes and schools.

After our beloved pet therapy dog, Sparty, passed, we knew we wanted to get another greyhound. Then we met Turbo Pablos. Like Sparty, he is a retired greyhound. He’s smart, outgoing and knows commands in both English and Spanish. And he, too, is a pet therapy dog. Together, we volunteer at Bronson Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Bronson Methodist Hospital.

With us being retired, it’s our way of giving back. It takes a lot of work and training to get to this point. He needed to pass obedience courses, certification tests. We also had to get approval from the vet and make sure he was up to date on all his shots. And as owners and hospital volunteers, we have to do testing and shots, as well.

Pet therapy gives these dogs a purpose. We say it’s his job, because he needs a job, too. He loves seeing people in the hospital. If he sees a familiar person, it is like he is visiting an extension of his family. It’s very rewarding. It’s nice to see the connection between the dogs and people, and the reactions to his presence: smiles, laughter and conversations. Sometimes pets can make a connection where people can’t. Even when people get emotional and they don’t want to talk to anyone, they can have a meaningful interaction with Turbo Pablos. They just give him affection and he stands there and gives it right back. That reciprocation is pretty special.

But it takes a lot of him, so we watch his time. The dogs give everything they have. Every part of that dog goes into the therapy work; every bit of his love and patience. He loves contact and to lean in and be right up against you. It’s in his personality to want to do this. He just gives and gives.

I can’t say enough good things about pet therapy. More hospitals are getting into it and the nice thing is that we’re here for staff, too, not just patients.

It’s time consuming, but very worthwhile. We always say, we just hold the leash, and the therapy happens at the other end. We get to witness it, and that’s special for us. He rescued us, and he is rescuing many others, too. It never ends.