I was invited to present to the International YMCA US Area Convention here in Las Vegas. They requested two presentations to small breakout groups. We were excited to meet this group of people who believe in serving their community as much as we do as Pet Partner volunteers. Their members are expert at recognizing good service and have been at it for over 90 years.
I did not give my usual presentation on The Healing Power of Pets, but rather had an intimate conversation with the audience about how pets enhance our lives, what it takes to become Pet Partners, how the Love Dogs take it to another level and why we do what we do as volunteers.
We had several dogs with us and they were all special in their own unique way. Sophie loved having everyone pet her and admire her beauty. Benny did his cute funny things and let everyone hold him and see how loving he can be.
And then something remarkable happened. Let me quote the note from Izzy’s handler, Mary, on her experience today:
“Izzy and I had the best time today. Izzy met a friend who was 80 years old during the second session. As soon as this man walked in, he made a bee line for Izzy, like he knew she had been expecting him. I think she did. Izzy followed him to his seat and proceeded to do what she does best. Give her love and attention to someone who needed it. This gentleman proceeded to cry uncontrollably and apologized for it and said that he didn't know what came over him. Izzy and I did though. He needed her. I knew that a passing visit was not going to be what the gentleman needed so I set up a chair and allowed Izzy to comfort and grieve with this man. Why grieve? Earlier while we were meeting and between the tears, he shared with me that his dog of 18 years had died 3 years ago. My heart went out to him. He said that you never really get over it and I agreed with him. I know that I would have a hard time too so I grieved also. 20 years in the military has taught me to keep my emotions in check and I am very good at it, until now. My heart was in my throat and my words escaped me. I was feeling what he was feeling and in awe of what the other end of my leash was doing. It was magic. That gentleman listened to what you were talking about and when he started to cry again, Izzy was there licking or what I would refer to as kissing his tears away and replacing them with new joy and memories. I asked him why he didn't want to hold the other dogs, he replied that he needed Izzy and she needed him. Izzy was giving a piece of herself to someone who needed it. As I walked back to my car I saw them again and stopped to say hello. He told me that he had not had this kind of happiness in a very long time and he thanked me. His wife was there and was the witness, as everyone else in the room, of the magic of the Love Dogs and the enormous impact it has on not just the people we serve but ourselves also. For a brief moment in time, Izzy and I were able to bring happiness to just one person who needed it.”
So while I was there to give a speech, we all know why we were really there, to put Jack and Izzy in the same room. Others in the audience all turned around to see what was happening in the back of the room.
One man. One dog. One moment.
And while the audience may have been small, the impact on everyone was tremendous.
Today we all witnessed the true healing power of pets.