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Retired Pediatric Nurse brings children joy through pet therapy

Retired Pediatric Nurse brings children joy through pet therapy

Joan, an avid dog-lover and former Pediatric Nurse, spent much of her career gaining fulfillment through helping sick children. When her health began to decline and it became clear she would have to sacrifice the career she loved to take care of her physical well-being, she was desperate to find a way to still uplift children in need. This was the moment where a friend mentioned an organization she was volunteering with – Catholic Social Services (CSS) – and suggested Joan reach out about Pet Therapy.

Three years later, Joan and Sassy, her two-pound Shih Tzu (pictured above), still make regular visits to both the La Salle Residence and Valeda House to bring happiness to the mothers and children in CSS’ care. 

When asked what volunteering means to her, Joan’s face lit up with pride, “it brings joy to my heart.”

 In the absence of the career she loved dearly, Joan is still able to find fulfillment by giving children and mothers, who cannot otherwise have animals, the opportunity to interact with Sassy.

With the children, or “kiddo’s,” as Joan affectionately refers to them, Sassy’s energetic side comes out; during their visits, you can find her running around and playing with the kids. If you hear a room full of children’s laughter at La Salle or Valeda House, you can be sure Sassy is not far.

With the mothers, Sassy’s demeanor changes to one which is quiet and calming. “I’ll never forget the first time Sassy met a mother and her newborn baby,” Joan recalled. “Instead of jumping, she crawled up gently beside the mother holding her newborn and just laid down silently.” It is her natural ability to know intuitively what people need that makes Sassy an incredible and effective therapy dog.

Over the years, Joan has grown close to both staff and clients, and feels lucky to get to witness how children in care grow with the support of staff and volunteers.   

“Your program amazes me,” said Joan, recalling the time she witnessed CSS staff transform a four-year-old with complex anger issues into a gentle, loving child. Beyond bringing joy to the residents in CSS’ homes, Joan finds further fulfillment by the feeling of community she gets from volunteering with the agency.

“Though there are things I can’t do anymore because of my health, this I can do,” said Joan. “And it gives me the joy of watching kids enjoy something. Even on days I don’t feel 100%, I’ve learned if I rattle my bones and go, I will come home in a much better space than where I was. I leave feeling good about life because I’ve been able to give somebody a giggle or a grin – that’s what it’s all about.”

To learn how you and your furry friend can help transform lives, please call 780-432-1137


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