Denise Kelly of Forest Park and her black lab blue heeler named Moe are excited to be a therapy team. Their first stop will be Swedish Medical Center where Moe will comfort pre- and post-surgery patients.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Denise Kelly
Denise Kelly of Forest Park knows firsthand the power of a therapy dog. When she went in for her first day of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer a couple of years ago, she started to cry – then a dog walked in and changed everything. Once Kelly was healthy enough, she looked into dog therapy. She and her black lab blue heeler “Moe” became a therapy team, in turn, helping others.
Kelly said, “When this beautiful dog named ‘Kelsey’ came into the hospital room and sat at my feet, I stopped crying. I petted her and felt calmer. Then later I realized that I have a dog that could do this. Moe is friendly, loving and patient.” Moe completed a class with Denver Pet Partners that included obstacles like walkers and wheelchairs and had to prove to be a good listener as well as calm under pressure. Coincidentally, Moe’s evaluator turned out to be Kelsey’s owner.
Kelly plans to return to Swedish Medical Center where she was a patient to “pay it forward” and is signed up to work with kids struggling to read who can practice reading to Moe without any judgement. Kelly would also like to take Moe to Craig Hospital to work with spinal cord injury patients and to work with the Veterans Administration, which often has long waiting times for service dogs for post-traumatic stress disorder patients.
Kelly points out that in many cases sick and/or maltreated children will suddenly start moving, responding, or talking when a dog comes into the room.
At a recent conference on the human/animal connection, Kelly became inspired by stories about therapy dogs in crisis situations. Handlers and their dogs who had comforted victims and rescue workers from 9/11 and the Oso mudslide in Washington shared their experiences. Eventually, once Moe has had practice, Kelly expressed how much she thinks Moe could help in crisis situations such as fires and floods.
Kelly said, “These dogs can do amazing things for us. With Moe, I feel he found me. When I was sick, he’d lay on me over my abdomen, as if he knew. He has a sense about him. People who touch him will be comforted. I experience it everyday.”
For more information or to sign up for upcoming classes, visit www.denverpetpartners.org.