Knowing that you make a difference – there are no words for that. It is really rewarding.

Jerry and Shannon Leonard, Volunteer

We (Jerry and Shannon) have had Sparty, our retired racing greyhound, for four years. Greyhounds are called 45 mph couch potatoes. Faster than racing thoroughbred race horses yet sleep 18-20 hours per day. When we rescued Sparty we knew right away that he would make a great pet therapy dog and had the perfect personality and temperament for it. Having done pet therapy with golden retrievers in the past, we were familiar with what was required of a dog for this. We completed all necessary training with Sparty and it has been an adventure since then. He knows what he’s doing and he really has a sense for when someone needs love. Sometimes he will (gently) jump right onto the bed with them on command. If a child is crying he can feel that sadness and he empathizes with them.

My wife and I took Sparty to the Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center once a week when the Pet Therapy program there was in its beginning stages. At the cancer care center, he is able to sit with patients before they get started with their treatment. A lot of patients love being able to pet him, cuddle with him, and just give him love. One of the main reasons I (Shannon) got into pet therapy is because it is a great way to give back. When humans don’t know what to do, pets can step in.

Sparty also makes regular visits to area nursing homes, publics schools, Western Michigan University’s Homer Stryker School of Medicine, and a variety of units at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Knowing that you make a difference – there are no words for that. It is really rewarding. It’s all about Sparty and not us. It is a great feeling to have a dog that has such a gift. We are fortunate and happy to be able to share him with others. At the end of every visitation day, Sparty has given all that he can. It’s nap time once again.

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