As we close the Red Cross Dog Days of Summer Campaign to promote pet safety, it is only fitting that we share the stories of the lovable dogs from the Red Cross Pet Therapy Program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two of the dogs, Cordy May and Hank, are in semi-retirement and their replacements are Tanker and Ripley, while a third dog, Daisy lost her own courageous battle with cancer and was replaced by Lili. All are trained as pet therapy dogs and meet both Red Cross volunteer and Walter Reed Army Medical Center requirements.
Cordy May and her replacement Tanker are Bernese Mountain Dogs, both trained for animal-assisted therapy. Hank and his replacement Ripley are both German Shepherds, while Lili is a mixed lab. The dogs visit the Walter Reed hospital wards once a week, providing comfort to patients, families, staff members and anyone else in need of a warm, furry hug.
The dogs instinctively know the unmistakable look of sadness in a patient’s eyes and try to fill that emptiness with a warm soft feeling of comfort. They enjoy spending “quiet time” with the wounded warriors, sitting patiently and listening to their stories. None of the dogs mind the shrapnel scars and bandages.
Their owners, Molly Morgan, William Waybourn and Barbara Rubin are but three members of the pet therapy team and have comforted thousands of patients during their seven years’ visiting Walter Reed. The dogs also give special attention to the tireless staff at the hospital, as their jobs are stressful and the dogs work hard to give them a special “moment” of care too. Some big dogs frighten people, but the almost universal reaction is a broad smile and, “Can I pet the dog?”
Molly says she is always humbled by the experience at Walter Reed. “I see so much courage, so much bravery,” she says. “And the fact that just bringing my dog makes these soldiers smile for a few seconds and makes them feel a little bit more at home, a little safer – it’s all worthwhile.” Being so fortunate to have this lovely animal is quite a blessing and to watch the looks of worry vanish from the patients’ faces when she greets them, is amazing. Even for just a few minutes, they know that they are safe and loved.
Cordy May is one of the best known therapy dogs, as she and Molly Morgan also participated in a video that demonstrates the value of Red Cross pet therapy to support wounded members of the military. This video was shown at the American Red Cross national convention in Baltimore, Md. in March 2008, where Cordy May and Molly Morgan made guest appearances. Cordy May is an extraordinary Red Cross volunteer who is loved by the entire Red Cross family.
Take an American Red Cross Pet First Aid class. Visit www.redcross.org to contact your local chapter. Many Red Cross chapters across the country offer classes with hands-on training in Pet First Aid procedures. These classes give pet owners the confidence and skills necessary to tend to unexpected emergencies until they can get their pet to a veterinarian.