I have a 15-and-a-half-year-old dog named Kayla. She was an abandoned dog that we found and rescued before her first birthday.
Kayla has been a member of Akron Children’s Doggie Brigade since 2001. Now she only visits once every few months and for usually an hour or less, but she still loves it.
When I put on my blue volunteer shirt, Kayla is at the door wagging her tail.
Kayla is an amazing dog. She has touched so many people in so many circumstances.
The Delta Society Pet Partners (which is the certifying agency that we use for the Doggie Brigade) contacted me a year ago because Kayla was the third-longest serving therapy dog out of 10,800 teams in the United States. She has been a therapy dog for more than 14 years.
She also has been my sidekick as a guidance counselor in three school districts and as a special education teacher before I became a guidance counselor. She has worked with me in crisis response counseling situations as I also volunteer my counseling skills with the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA).
Back in 2000, Kayla was the first dog in the country to be a certified Pet Partner and part of the NOVA program. She accompanied me to a mass shooting in California to New York City for 9/11 six days after the towers fell. She has responded with me on too many crisis situations in our local and state area to recall.
A recent article covered the fact there are few dogs still living that helped during 9/11, which made me think about how long she has been with us and how lucky we are.
Kayla spent time in the Akron City Hospital visiting dog program prior to Akron Children’s. She has volunteered with me at the Akron Hospice Center and accompanied me to multiple national speaking engagements and presentations about using therapy dogs in counseling, including last year at the All-Ohio Counselors Conference.
Between all the children she has comforted (either patients at Children’s, students at school who I am counseling, or victims in the aftermath of crisis) she bridges so many years, experiences and hearts.
We know that Kayla is in the twilight of her life. For a large dog, she is very old. But she continues to give of herself all she has, with whatever she has left to give. She sometimes reminds me of the tree in the children’s story, “The Giving Tree.”
I will always take comfort in knowing so many people’s lives have been touched and their hearts hold memories of our special dog Kayla.
I also have a 7-year-old yellow lab in the Doggie Brigade named Bella who also visits with Kayla. Bella accompanied me to Chardon High School after the shootings there this year.
Have you been touched by our Doggie Brigade? We’d love to hear your story, or you can comment on this post.