My love affair with greyhounds began the day that my student teacher brought her recently adopted brindle greyhound to visit my special education classroom. After meeting that dog, I knew I had to have one of my own, but convincing my husband was another matter. It took seven years of nagging, begging, and dragging him to various greyhound Meet and Greets before he finally relented. We got our first greyhound in 2002. Jasper was a very shy fawn boy, the first greyhound from our group to come from the Dubuque track. Although he was timid around new people, he won our hearts and was my best buddy for 7 1/2 years until we lost him to intestinal cancer in 2010.
My life was empty without a greyhound, so we decided to adopt again six months later. This time we were given a very friendly blue female from Dennis Tyler in Melbourne, Florida. Brandy comes from very good racing stock; both her father and grandfather were the best of international bloodlines, yet she never raced. Her owner gave her to Dennis Tyler when she was 18 months old and he worked with her before she came to us. Her racing name was Blipity Blue, but they called her Brandy which made her light up and wag her tail. After quickly getting to know Brandy, I’m convinced she had never raced because she was destined for another very important job. Within a few short months, Brandy had passed all of her tests and became a therapy dog. To become a certified therapy dog she had to know basic commands, stay calm in noisy situations, allow other people to handle her, and not react to other dogs. None of those tasks were a problem for my girl. I was so nervous the day we went for her evaluation, but she did everything that was asked of her without hesitation.
Since I retired from teaching in 2011, Brandy and I have been providing therapy in nursing homes, residential institutions, and private homes. We also volunteer in schools and libraries where children read to her. Every Tuesday morning you’ll find us at the Jewish Home where Brandy has become very well known to the staff, residents, and people on the rehab floor. I’m not sure who benefits the most from our visits: the people we visit each week, Brandy, or myself. The smiles, laughter, pats on the head, and treats make us all feel better. People always thank us for coming in, and I thank them in return for making my day better as well.
On Wednesday afternoons, for the past 2 years, we volunteer at The Villa of Hope where Brandy listens to students read and also cuddles with those that may need a little TLC. Her gentle nature provides a very calming effect for many students. Brandy has become quite a celebrity there and last year was the runner up for Reading Idol! One of the staff commented that it must have taken me hours to train Brandy to lay still while the kids read to her. Little did he know that greyhounds don’t have to be taught to be lazy; it comes with the breed.
Volunteering with Brandy is my favorite thing to do. We both have a great time wherever we go and it’s a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us. As soon as I put on her red bandana that signifies she is a therapy dog, her tail is wagging and she can’t wait to get in the car to go see our old friends or to make a new one. On the days we don’t volunteer, she follows me around the house wondering when we get to go again. It is amazing to watch her in action. Somehow she knows who needs a kiss, a head on their lap, or to stand next to them so they can just pet her. She goes under walkers, maneuvers around wheelchairs, and doesn’t even mind the occasional beeping of alarms, or fire drills at a school. When she’s wearing her bandana, she is ready for whatever is expected of her.
Everywhere we go, I am constantly asked questions about greyhounds. Her unusual color and breed make her a novelty in many of the settings where we do our therapy. Brandy is not only helpful to people as a therapy dog, she’s an ambassador for other greyhounds. I highly recommend volunteering with your greyhound if you have the opportunity. It’s an experience you’ll never forget!