Delightful Miss Daisy the Therapy Dog
Meet Daisy, the Therapy Dog. She is a 4-year old Blenheim Cavalier who, since January 2018, has provided comfort, support, joy and lots of doggie tail wagging to more than a 1,000 people in need of comfort in New England!
Daisy is part of a large Cavalier family whose owner, Sandy, has been a proud CKCS dog mom since her husband surprised her with Bo, a beautiful Blenheim Cavalier, on their 25th anniversary. Sandy said that was one of the “happiest days of her life”, because she had wanted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for over 16 years! And Bo was just the beginning of their Cavalier brood. Before they knew it Daisy, Luke, Lucy, and Lola, all CKCS, were a part of the family as well. Sandy just completed her first fostering for CR-USA, an experience that was treasured by Sandy and her family. They all miss Gracie, the foster pup, but have plans to see her again and even take care of her when her new family goes on vacation.
Sandy’s mom became ill shortly after Bo joined their household. Sandy took care of her mom with Bo at her side, really, her mom’s side every day. Sandy noticed that her mom’s pain seemed to disappear, and she was much more relaxed when Bo was on her lap or by her side. Bo intuitively knew what to do and how to behave with Sandy’s mom, even though he was only a puppy. He was loyal and loving to her until she passed away. It was through this experience with Bo and her mom that Sandy realized that she wanted to help others using dog therapy.
Sandy researched the dog therapy training process and learned that she could have one of her pups certified with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs after training and testing. Initially, Sandy decided that Luke was the proper pup from her family for these classes. So, Luke went to obedience class and passed with flying colors. Then, he attended a class specifically to learn how to become a therapy dog. He was doing quite well throughout the class, but seemed a little too shy for the job. So, Sandy decided not to test him, and arranged to have Daisy’s temperament observed by the instructor on the last night of class. The instructor saw Daisy’s enthusiasm and behaviors and encouraged her to take the test, despite the fact that she had never been to a single class. Daisy took the test that night, and turned out to be the star pupil, earning the highest score in the class and finding her destiny. It was clear that Daisy was meant to be a therapy dog and is registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Therapy Dogs are dogs that are used to bring solace and cheer anyone, but especially to those who are ill, lonely, or are experiencing symptoms caused by stress, anxiety or depression. Therapy Dogs and their owners work together as a team to bring comfort and enrich the lives of other people. Therapy Dogs can be taken to any number of places, including hospitals, nursing homes, foster homes, homeless shelters, airports, schools, and places struck by natural disasters or tragic events. Therapy Dogs are not covered under any specific Federal laws, and permission is typically needed from the place where the dog is to be taken.
Daisy regularly visits university students, a special education classroom, law enforcement officers, and is set to become the very first therapy dog specifically for hospice patients at a local hospital. Sandy says, “It’s such a great feeling watching people’s faces light up when they see Daisy. It amazes me how something as simple as seeing a dog in a place that dogs are not normally allowed, can totally change how that person was just feeling. You can actually watch stress levels go down, and any sadness or pain they were just feeling practically disappear”.
Sandy came up with a fantastic way to extend the benefits of the therapy dog visits. She created a therapy dog/art therapy program. Each month, she designs adult coloring pages of Daisy. Students often start coloring the pages with colored pencils while they are waiting to see Daisy, and then take the pages back to their dorms to finish and hang on their bulletin boards, or just keep in a journal. Then, when they are feeling stressed about an exam, or are experiencing anxiety or sadness, they have a constant reminder of their visit with Daisy.
Many students take extra coloring pages with them as they are leaving an event and say things like “I might need these”, or “I have friends that are going to want to color too”. Students have reported back that the art pages have really helped them in times of stress. Many students are just feeling homesick and are missing their own dogs, and Daisy helps them to cope with whatever feelings they may be experiencing. Sandy says, “Sharing Smiles and Joy with Daisy, has been one the most rewarding things I have ever done! And, as much joy as Daisy brings to others, I get back even more in return!” “The best part of attending these events is seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter, as Daisy and her therapy dog friends, Lottie, Zeus, Murray, Penny, and Kenai interact with the students.”
Daisy makes regular visits with university students, and students enrolled in a local public school’s Extended Program, located in New England. The Extended Program is housed on a university campus, and takes place in a life skills classroom designed for students with special needs that are ages 18-22, who recently graduated from high school. All of these students have disabilities and their teacher wanted to help them learn how to relax, and to understand what relaxing really felt like by practicing stress relieving activities. So, Daisy was invited to class, and was an instant success with these students. She’s even changed some lives. To the amazement of the teacher, one of her mostly non-verbal students started talking to Daisy one day! Now, each time Daisy visits, it’s fascinating to watch that student interact with her. Another student was having trouble coping with the loss of his own dog, but through visits with Daisy, has overcome some of the intense sadness he was experiencing. When a student in the class turns 22, Daisy is invited to their graduation ceremony/birthday celebration. At the university Daisy visits, she has become so popular with the students during the monthly therapy dog events, that Sandy had to call in the help of extra dogs from her Therapy Dog class. She now refers to the group of 6 dogs that come to campus as the “Therapy Dog Dream Team”. The student Therapy Dog events were so successful, that the university is now extending the benefits of therapy dog visits to faculty and staff members.
Daisy’s work at two local hospitals, one specifically with hospice patients, is still pending completion of extensive paperwork, background checks, trainings and medical screenings. Sandy hopes to complete everything soon so she can start her visits with Daisy. Therapy dog visits have become a labor of love, and have enabled Sandy the opportunity to help other people, and honor her mother in the process.
Daisy also has a great presence on Instagram. You can see her with her family under the name @cavalier_tales. Looking at the IG photos of Daisy online with Bo, Luke, Lucy and Lola always brings a smile. More than that though, Sandy is hoping to inspire other Cavalier owners to think about getting their own CKCS pups certified as therapy dogs and join in this most rewarding experience.
A favorite quote of Sandy’s, “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” She and Daisy are truly the embodiment of these words. What an honor and delight for their family to be a part of the Cavalier Rescue USA family.
By Shelley Greggs