Sammy, loved and handled by Barbara McKelvey, loves his position as an official Doggie Brigader.
“I laugh at him each week when we come to the hospital to volunteer,” said McKelvey. “From the moment he gets out of the car and the entire time he is walking over the bridge to the hospital, his tail is wagging a 100 times a minute. I tell people, ‘Don’t you wish you loved coming to work as much as Sammy does?'”
The feeling is mutual for Shannon Bitskay, a 13 year old undergoing treatment for lymphoma.
In and out of the hospital since last April, she keeps a book of Doggie Brigade Trading Cards to help keep track of all of her dog encounters. She loves and appreciates these canine volunteers and looks forward to her visits with them.
“It cheers her up,” said her father, Mark Bitskay. “She loves them. I think it is the unconditional love these animals have that makes the difference for our kids.”
Shannon has both a dog and cat at home. She especially likes lap dogs, so Sammy, a Bichon Frise, is a perfect visitor and a reminder of home. Mark laughs that Sammy is even better than their dog, Freckles, who is too big to fit nicely in a lap.
“Sammy is built for this job,” said Barbara. “He’s small enough to get in bed with the kids and he doesn’t shed. Who can resist the comfort of a warm fuzzy creature cuddling up with you?”
Sammy has been volunteering in the Brigade for 5 years and has a virtual fan club.
“My husband always jokes that if Sammy is ever kidnapped, we’d have a whole lot of people to look at as suspects,” said Barbara.