The kids are grown, now what?: Guest Post: Healing on Four Paws

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Guest Post: Healing on Four Paws

I want to thank author Charmaine Hammond for stopping by today.

Just like a giggling child can bring a smile to your face, so can an animal. How many times have you smiled at a dog walking past you on the street with his owner, or the dog who has his head hanging out the car window- pink floppy tongue flapping  about in the breeze, or the cat who is peering out the window of your neighbor’s house while soaking up the sun sitting on the back of a couch. For these brief moments, animals can take us away from the busyness of life.

Animals can be healers, reduce stress levels, minimize anxiety and provide therapeutic value in many health and educational environments. Our dog Toby, a Chesapeake Bay retriever provided me the gift of witnessing the richness that a dog can bring to another human through unconditional love. Toby made the dog Marley (from the movie Marley and Me) look like a saint.

We adopted Toby at age five from a local animal rescue organization, and shortly thereafter discovered that that he came with his own baggage, which included breaking toilet tank lids, rearranging furniture, opening and emptying closets and hiding things, on an almost daily basis. Choosing not to give up on Toby, we called for help. Maggie a local and highly qualified K9 Behaviorist and Trainer discovered that Toby was a dog who needed a job.

Toby became a Pet Assisted Therapy Dog at a mental health hospital. Every Wednesday for 4 ½ years he stepped into his purpose- he visited with patients offering unconditional love, 100% focus, and trust. The impact on patients varied from patient to patient. Toby’s presence on the unit (and his loud bark to announce he had arrived) brought patients out of their rooms, the general mood, and energy on the unit increased. Patients became more social with one another during the visits with Toby. In many ways, this dog acted like a connector, he brought people together, and, his presence became a safe topic of conversation. His desire to entertain the patients (through his ¾ summersaults, tossing the ball at patients to play fetch and sitting with his head on their lap) also encouraged laughter. And we all know that laughter reduces stress hormones and has a positive impact on health.

There is a lot of research to substantiate that pet owners live longer and healthier lives. They are often more physically active because their pets require that of them. In fact, Dr. Dawn Marcus, a neurologist who is involved in pet assisted therapy through her dogs, has done extensive research on this very topic.  Dr. Marcus also reported that animals can also reduce anxiety, assist with focus, improve the immune system, and provide extensive therapeutic benefits to healing.

Toby’s work has been chronicled in Chicken Soup for the Soul- What I learned from the dog (Sept 2009), in a story titled Volunteering From The Heart. Shortly after I wrote On Toby’s Terms,(Bettie Youngs Books, 2010) which is being turned into a major motion picture. Toby’s children’s book was released in 2011 Toby The Pet Therapy Dog & His Hospital Friends (Bettie Youngs Books, 2011) teaching children lessons about friendship, kindness and helping others, and how a pet therapy dog can make a difference.

The patients that Toby worked with at the hospital and the thousands of children that he met in schools experienced the benefits of a therapy dog’s whose mission in life was to leave pawprints on hearts everywhere he went.

Toby’s legacy video can be found at:

And his book can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and
About the author
Charmaine Hammond is a professional speaker helping build inspired and resilient teams. She speaks on the topics of resilience, Bouncing Forward, and courageous dialogue.  She is also an award winning best selling author of On Toby’s Terms (Bettie Youngs Books, Sept. 2010), Toby The Pet Therapy Dog – and his hospital friends (Bettie Youngs Books, Aug. 2011), and Bounce Forward (Hammond International Publishing, April 2011), and has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul- What I learned from the dog (Sept. 2009). She is also co-authoring a new book GPS Your Best Life. Her book On Toby’s Terms is currently in development to become a major motion picture! She has been featured on CBC, CTV, Global TV, 820 CHAM, Alberta Prime Time News, many major newspapers including Metro News National Canada, US and New York, and in various magazines. She has also two radio shows that she hosts, Corporate Conversations with Charmaine, and PAWsitive Radio…all things Pets!  You can find all that Charmaine offers at and


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