Therapy dog that befriended seniors, kids dies
Golden retriever comforted homeless at Samaritan Inn
By EVA-MARIE AYALA
Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
McKINNEY — When Faith was rescued nearly five years ago, the golden retriever was 30 pounds overweight, and a simple walk down the street would make her paws bleed.
But Faith’s life was about second chances.
Her new family put her on a health program to get her trim and bought her special shoes to ease the pain when she exercised. Finally fit, she began volunteering to help others in need as a therapy dog.
Faith offered comfort to seniors going through illnesses and patience to homeless children learning to read. But her own health suddenly took a turn last month, and she died Aug. 17. She was 11 years old.
“The children especially connected with Faith,” said her owner, Pam Hatch. “They kind of saw themselves in her. She was a rescue dog without a home for a while, but look at what she was able to do with her second life.”
Faith was originally from a family who loved her but had trouble caring for her as they were expecting a baby. The Dallas Fort Worth Metro Golden Retriever Rescue found her a new home with Hatch in January 2011.
While working with the group, Hatch learned about therapy dogs and had Faith certified by the end of their first year together. The dog had learned how to remain calm amid chaotic environments, how to interact with patients in hospitals and how to simply listen to those needing a friendly ear.
Faith’s volunteer career began in a local retirement village where she’d visit seniors. Some were staying only a short time for physical rehab programs and others were facing debilitating illnesses requiring 24-hour care.
“Faith could tell who really wanted to see her and who was just being polite,” Hatch said. “Our favorite patient was a woman whose disease eventually progressed to where she couldn’t talk or move much. When we’d come by, she’d stick out her foot to pet Faith and just smile. Faith loved visiting her.”
In 2013, Hatch and her friend Nancy Riedl — who has a therapy dog named Teddy — pitched an idea to establish a program at The Samaritan Inn, which serves Collin County’s homeless. They told officials they could visit once a week so that children there could read to the dogs.
“I was beyond skeptical,” said Cara Mendelsohn, the inn’s director of marketing and advocacy. “But Faith and Teddy have been incredible to us. When you saw how the children just opened up with Faith, you became a huge advocate for therapydogs.”
Mendelsohn said Faith intuitively sought out the children most in need of comfort, often cuddling up to those trying to wall themselves off in isolation. Once they interacted with Faith, they would start warming up to others, as well.
“And all of our children passed the state’s reading tests,” Mendelsohn added. “Faith and Teddy were a big part of that. When children read to adults, we can’t help but want to correct them or help them out. But dogs don’t do that. They don’t judge. They just listen.”
Faith suddenly began having breathing problems in mid-August. Her veterinarian suspects it was cancer.
Hatch isn’t sure yet if she’ll get another dog. But in the meantime, she does plan to continue working at The Samaritan Inn as new puppy volunteers get trained.
“I will miss her greatly, but I want to continue the work she helped start,” Hatch said. “I know it’s going to be hard at first. But, we have to keep it going.”