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Jewish World Review
April 4, 2008
/ 28 Adar II 5768
Love on 4 Paws
The following is a love story. Love can come in all shapes and sizes. And very often it comes with a wet nose, a hairy face and on 4 paws. I received a wonderful, heartwarming letter from a reader awhile ago, it touched me and I would like to share with you. The letter was signed Dorothy Wilber and she titled it "Love on 4 Paws." She was writing me about her daughter Cynthia's dog, Hanz, a small miniature schnauzer. Hanz is a very special boy - he is a therapy dog.
Cynthia devotes her Saturdays and Sundays off of work to take Hanz to Los Angeles Children's Hospital, Shriner's and St. Joseph Hospital nun's nursing home. You can imagine how the kids love to see Hanz whenever he walks into their rooms. Of course many of these children and teens are extremely ill, some terminally. These children are hooked up to tubes, some can't move, some have been in serious automobile accidents.
For many of the children a visit from Hanz can be the highlight of their week, and Hanz has a pretty good time of it, too. Hanz is among 15 other dogs in the program, each pooch wears a green vest when they visit. But thanks to Cynthia, Hanz stands out a bit more from the rest of the pack of therapy dogs. Now I know this might sound crazy, but Hanz walks in bedecked in various outfits.
Figuring the kids could undoubtedly use a good laugh, Cynthia decided to dress Hanz up in a doctor's outfit complete with glasses and a stethoscope. One child in particular, a little boy who never seemed to smile, was told by Cynthia that there was a new doctor who needed to see him. Then in walked little Hanz in full doctor costume and the little boy squealed with delight. Hanz has been known as Dr. Love ever since.
Once Cynthia dressed Hanz up as a Harley Davidson biker wearing a leather jacket and sitting on a motorcycle. She took pictures of him and made stickers from them so that the children could stick them up in their rooms. Needless to say, the kids loved seeing their favorite Dr. Love posed on his very own motorcycle.
Stories about Hanz have been written up in newspapers and he even came in as a semi-finalist in the National "My Pet, My Pal" contest - chosen by Lassie, no less. Yup, Hanz is quite a celebrity. But mostly to all those children at the hospital, Hanz is just simply their best friend.
Meanwhile at the nun's nursing home, Hans is bringing enjoyment to another generation altogether. It's funny, but one doesn't tend to think of nuns as getting old and needing nursing home care, but of course they do. Nuns are only human. They need as much love and attention as the kids in Children's Hospital. An 81 year old nun needs to feel the warmth of a little dog like Hanz just as much as that 6 year old little girl with a debilitating illness.
Whether it's Children's Hospital or the nursing home, everyone loves Hanz and his buddies. They bring a sense of love and happiness to those who most need it. You can't buy that kind of fulfillment for any amount of money - you can try, but it will never happen. As I say, these puppies are special. Very special. But then people such as Cynthia are pretty special too.
As I said, love can come in all shapes and sizes - and in all breeds. Animal therapy has been shown to have real health-giving results and helps patients to recover faster. For kids and seniors who are sick and think they may be forgotten, it is more than a heeling experience, it is a Godsend. If you would like to know more about therapy dogs, visit their web site at: WWW.LOVEON4PAWS.org
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby