You have to love an organization whose motto is, “Making a difference, one wag at a time.” And West Michigan Therapy Dogs is making a difference, especially to the kids at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Twice a month WMTD volunteers drop by with their canine companions to visit the young patients, and the reaction, says Herman Miller Payroll Manager Deb Caukin, is “instantaneous. The kids just love it.”
Deb was instrumental in bringing the program to the hospital four years ago. WMTD trains the dogs and there are currently 20 volunteer teams—one dog, one human—who take turns on visiting nights.
Deb’s dog Sunshine is always a big hit. “The other night, we stopped in to see a teenager, and she was so excited to see us. Her mom was taking pictures and said to us, ‘It’s so wonderful you’re here; it’s the first time she’s smiled all day…’ We hear things like that all the time.”
Jodi Bauers, manager of the hospital’s Child Life program agrees. “The dogs provide an unconditional love; they look past tubes and wheelchairs to see a new friend.”
The volunteers also go to nursing homes and other hospitals, but the Children’s Hospital is Deb’s favorite. “It’s such a great opportunity to give back to the community. Every single time I go I think, ‘I’m so glad I did this.’ My dogs give me a lot of joy and it’s wonderful to be able to spread it around.”