Shelly and Jake: Pet Therapy Pioneers by Moxie Gusto

Happy Halloween from the Dread Pirate Shelly and her Terrible Sea Monster Jake

This was my mother and our family dog preparing to visit a convalescent hospital on Halloween, many years ago.  Every week Shelly and Jake visited patients in the hospital for rehabilitation, and they came to be well known around our little community.

My mother saw a news story about therapy animals being used in hospitals across the country and decided that we needed something like that our small town.  Neither Mom nor Jake had any formal training, yet they became the first pet therapy team in our area.

Mom spent most of her time doing things for other people, and had a frequent habit of rescuing and rehabilitating abandoned or abused animals.  After her children were raised, it was only natural that she created her own volunteering niche in the community.

Jake was adopted from the pound as a puppy, so we have no idea where he came from.  He was very well-behaved and incredibly affectionate, with a special talent for giving the best hugs ever.

I was too much of a teenager at the time to fully appreciate what they were doing, and never got involved myself, but I always listened to my mom tell stories after each visit to the hospital. I put up the ‘disinterested teenager’ front, but I was so proud of both of them.  She would get fired up describing the happiness that Jake brought to the patients.  Some of them never got any visitors except for Jake and Shelly.

It was not her intention, but my mom brought an incredible amount of joy to her own life through volunteering at the hospital.  She didn’t have any special skills, but she did have an abundance of love and a kind and friendly nature that uplifted everyone around her. She probably didn’t think I was listening but I came to understand that lifting up other people is one of the most important things you can do with your time. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from.  There is always something you can do that brings hope or joy into the lives of others.  Thanks, Mom.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”   —   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Footnote: Shelly and Jake underwent appropriate health exams, updated their immunizations and were screened by hospital staff prior to visiting any patients.