Paw Prints, a Dog, and a Check

Like many therapy animals, Daisie has a sixth sense when it comes to people’s emotions. During a recent therapy session, an agitated nine-year-old boy squirmed in his chair. The young black Lab waited for a moment, sat down next to the boy, and then nuzzled the boy’s hand. The boy stopped fidgeting and slowly began to stroke Daisie’s head. “What a good doggie,” he whispered. Daisie looked into the boy’s eyes and gave a contented sigh. Such is the power of the human-animal bond.

A Child’s Best Friend

What is it about Daisie that children find so comforting? Maybe it’s the unconditional love reflected in her eyes. Maybe it’s her soft, silky fur. Or maybe it’s the sense of calmness they feel when Daisie gently lays her head in their laps. Whatever the reason, the children in treatment at Mount Saint Vincent love Daisie, who is one the many certified animals in the therapeutic program.

Learning to Trust Again

Animal-assisted therapy is often used as an intervention when a child who has been abused or neglected exhibits an attachment disorder or is distrustful of other people. Mount Saint Vincent’s program includes dogs, horses, guinea pigs, and even fish in the school classrooms. “A dog shows unconditional positive regard for the child, and once a relationship has been established, the child feels safe,” said Mount Saint Vincent Child and Family Therapist Teresa Coen, LCSW, AAT. “And when children feel safe and comfortable, they not only talk more, they also process more.” It’s that processing that can lead to healing from past traumatic events.

When Chuck & Don’s Pet Food & Supplies was looking for a beneficiary for its annual fundraising campaign in late 2016, they heard about Mount Saint Vincent. What better fit for a pet supply retailer looking to support a nonprofit than an organization that uses animal-assisted interventions to help children overcome the effects of abuse and neglect? Chuck & Don’s team couldn’t have agreed more.

Spreading the Word

With their beneficiary chosen, Chuck & Don’s began educating store associates about the work being done for children at Mount Saint Vincent. They in turn then educated their customers. As it turned out, store patrons were eager to make donations during the six-week “Paw Prints” campaign. Once the corporate donation was added in, the final campaign tally was more than $28,000. Chuck & Don’s marketing and community relations manager, Heather Ratynski, delivered the check.

“More Than We Ever Imagined”Mount Saint Vincent staff accepting check from Chuck & Don's

“I’ve delivered Paw Prints donations to nonprofits before, but the reaction of Mount Saint Vincent’s staff when they saw the amount was off the charts,” Ratynski said. Laughter and tears ensued as one of the therapists raced to notify the nonprofit’s Executive Director, Kirk Ward, and Director of Development, Kay Kelleher Mcdowell. “To say we were surprised by the amount of the check is putting it lightly,” said Ward. “We are so grateful to Chuck & Don’s and their customers.”

Just Another Day

As for Daisie, she takes all the commotion in stride. Following another successful therapy session, she happily accepts a big bear hug from her young friend. For this therapy dog, providing comfort and support for children who have been abused or neglected is all the reward she needs.

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