After about a decade of weekly visits, the Sierra Tucson Behavioral Health Center held a recognition ceremony for Lady, a 12 year old Shetland Sheep Dog, as she retired from her service as a certified therapy animal.
Located adjacent to SaddleBrooke, Sierra Tucson (ST) has for over 30 years provided care for the treatment of addiction, depression, eating disorders, trauma, chronic pain and other complex challenges.
About 10 years ago SaddleBrooke residents Miriam and Don Bott suggested to the ST staff that visits by them with Lady might be a unique way for their patients, the patient’s family members and the ST staff to think about other things than their issues and relax as they petted, scratched and massaged, and for some, received puppy kisses and lowered their heart rates and stress level. After all, we all need loving nonjudgmental therapy.
The decision was made and Lady’s visits were sanctioned. Certified under the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, Lady is among a group of about 11,000 volunteers and their animals (mostly dogs, but there are cats, horses and llamas, etc. included) who yearly provide comfort to about a million people nationally.
Lady and Don are also members of the Therapy Animals of Southern Arizona organization. This local group has teams that among many things visit the VA, work with victims of domestic and child abuse, visit Tucson area libraries where children read to dogs and visit the U of A and PCC Libraries at exam time where stressed out students studying for finals take time to get on the floor and pet dogs. What is a constant are the many smiles, occasional tears as all involved speak of the love and warmth that our animals provide.
Lady’s retirement was special. Her arthritic limbs pose a problem so the decision was made to have her on occasion make guest appearances at Sierra Tucson and other facilities. She loves her job; getting petted and scratched is a good gig. We figured that over the years at ST that she has made about 10,000 people smile and feel better. She’s made a difference. And currently there are now three other therapy dog teams visiting ST.
Questions about any of the above may be addressed to Don Bott at 825-2056.