I knew our rescued Dalmatian mix Proteus was something special. What I didn’t realize was the special moments we would be creating as we used our Cisco volunteering hours together after he became a therapy dog.
Proteus is the Son of Poseidon, as you may know, from Greek Methodology, and the name definitely fits him. Part hound, Proteus can be a little goofy, but is also regal at the same time. He likes to play dumb, but don’t let that fool you – he is actually quite smart.
We found Proteus at a Dalmatian rescue. He was airlifted from Cincinnati during heavy floods to the Virginia area, and eventually found his way to a local Dalmatian rescue we had previously adopted from. When I called to ask about a male to keep our female company, they said, “Boy, do we have a dog for you!” We connected instantly, and could not believe how well balanced and sweet his demeanor was!
It’s been five years since we adopted him and now I can’t imagine our family without him.
I always thought that Proteus would be a great therapy dog. He is quiet, secure with himself, happy, and well balanced. Nothing bothers him. He doesn’t bark and he only howls when he wants some attention or when he is happy. So, I set off to have him cleared to visit nursing homes, shelters, and hospitals, and was told that he was “a natural; and made for this job”.
Eventually, we began visiting our local hospital, Mease Dunedin, under their Caring Paws program. Proteus even has his own name badge for when we visit; and I was happy that I could work out a schedule with the hospital that is flexible. Proteus and I visit the hospital for two hours every Thursday morning, as long as I am not traveling. We’ve been visiting the hospital since last summer; and we both really love it!
I couldn’t do this without the flexibility and encouragement that Cisco provides to give back – and knowing that they support such incredible causes and allow us to choose how we volunteer our time truly means the world to me. But, I think the most rewarding part of our volunteering is seeing a patient’s eyes light up when they see Proteus walk into their room – they tell me that we’ve made their day! It makes me so proud to work for a company that enables us to be able to contribute in such a way to our local communities.
During one visit, there was an older woman in her late 80’s, crying in her room while she was on the phone. I didn’t want to disturb her, so I didn’t ask to go in initially, but one of the nurses told me to try. As soon as she saw Proteus, her tears stopped. She reached out to pet him, and we sat there for about 15 minutes visiting with her. She felt comfortable enough to tell me about her situation, and having Proteus there helped her to calm down. By the time we left she was actually smiling. That was a really good day.
Both my parents spent a lot of time in the hospital before they passed away recently. I know if they had a Proteus to visit with them that it would have made them so happy. I do this to also honor their memory because they loved dogs so much which makes this even more meaningful for me.
My motivation is to help people smile a little bit in a place where they are most likely to be in physical and emotional despair. It reminds me how precious our health really is, and how we can all help each other to smile a little bit more.
An unexpected bonus too — The Staff at the hospital loves seeing Proteus! When we go by the Nurses’ station, they crouch down and open their arms for him. We spend about half our time with the Staff – when people work such stressful jobs, seeing a dog can release that stress and give them just a moment of true happiness. I had no idea we could make a difference with their day too, but I am so glad that we do!
If you’re interested in having your dog become a certified therapy dog, I would recommend you work with them early to be a good Canine citizen. If your dog is calm, well behaved, and has a minimal level of obedience training, he/she will do just fine. The investment in time and love comes back to you many times over. Proteus and I have bonded in a unique way during our times at the hospital and somehow he knows when it is Thursday morning. He can’t wait to get in our Van!
My only other suggestion would be to just do it! Google “pet therapy” in your area and make the time to get out there with your Canine kid to have them certified. It’s an easy process and you definitely will not regret it. Then both of you can use your Cisco volunteering hours together!
Interested in joining a company that encourages you to give back? We’re hiring – join us!