I volunteer about twice a month at Orange Coast Memorial Hospital in their pet therapy program. I’ve been volunteering for about 2 years and love the experiences and the diverse interactions I have had. Many of you might be familiar with the pet therapy concept, while some of you might have no idea what’s involved. A pet therapy team consists of a pet therapist who is trained to work with a therapy dog. The dog I work with is named Teddy. He is the cutest little black fluffy pup.
Teddy and I visit the patients in various parts of the hospital and spend time visiting with them, giving them a chance to pet and be comforted by Teddy. It is truly incredible how the simple presence of a dog can change a patient’s attitude and put a big smile on their face.
My role in all this is that of a “pet therapy assistant”. I go around with the pet therapist, another assistant, and Teddy to visit with the patients. When I first started, I was uncomfortable and nervous as I was not sure how I was going to be able to contribute with not being able to see the patients or help with Teddy. Even now, there are times that I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable because of some little thing that probably no one else even noticed, like stepping on the dog by accident or facing the wrong way when addressing a patient.
One of the most memorable visits I’ve had took place shortly after I started volunteering. One of the last patients we visited that day wanted to see Teddy. However, He didn’t speak very good English and because of the language barrier, we were not able to understand his response. When he realized this, he pointed, and we brought the dog over so he could pet him. Immediately, a huge smile broke out over his face, and he got so excited. Talk about breaking language barriers!
My friends, volunteering and spending time helping others has always been something I’ve enjoyed tremendously. Just like the above quote says, life’s all about doing, being, and becoming. It is so rewarding to feel and experience the smile and joy that comes over a patient when they see and pet Teddy. I would encourage everyone, if you don’t already, to find some volunteer position you enjoy. When it’s all about the doing, being, and becoming, only the best is yet to come!