‘The best part of pet therapy is I know that for the hour we were there that day, Brody actually took away somebody’s anxiety for a little while.’
“We got Brody as a puppy. When he was about 2 years old, I decided that I wanted to volunteer. My kids had gone off to college. I loved dogs, and I was obsessed with Brody, so I decided to do pet therapy.
“I talked with Stony Brook Hospital, and they took him on. We volunteered twice a week in the pediatric unit for years. We met Kayla when she was 14. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and was in and out of Stony Brook for one year. We visited with her once a week for a year. Once in a while, she would shoot me a message and ask, ‘Is there any way Brody could come visit me?’ So, we would head over there on a day that we weren’t supposed to volunteer and visit her.
Brody’s only 6, and I want to keep doing this with him: keep reaching people, touching people and keep having him spread his love.
“Being Brody’s handler and working together, you’re not supposed to get emotionally involved in a situation. But Kayla went to Sachem and I was a Sachem graduate; it’s hard to say, ‘I’m not going to get attached.’ One day I went in and I saw them wheeling Kayla down the hallway, and she didn’t look like Kayla anymore. She made eye contact with me, and she requested that she say goodbye to Brody, and they asked me if I felt comfortable with that. I asked them to give me a couple minutes to think about it because I was really emotional, but I pulled myself together and thought, ‘This is a tough kid. And if she could do what she’s doing, then I can take five minutes out of my life and toughen up and go in there and visit her.’ And that’s what we did. Brody and I went in there; she petted him and I cried. Within maybe 24 hours, she had passed away. It’s such a mixture of feeling privileged to be able to be in that moment and then a sadness that comes with it.
“Now we volunteer at a hospice, and I really love it. It gives patients who are nearing the end of their lives a chance to not think about reality for a little while, while they pet Brody and they feed him and he licks them.
“The best part of pet therapy is I know that for the hour we were there that day, Brody actually took away somebody’s anxiety for a little while. Brody’s only 6, and I want to keep doing this with him: keep reaching people, touching people and keep having him spread his love.”
Interviewed by Hannah Fusaro