By George Eskola
The paws were on patrol. Their matching orders were to pay a visit to the wounded warriors at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
“It's good to have them, we enjoy…we definitely enjoy having them out,” says Travis Beck, a wounded warrior, from Atlanta.
Twice a month, the pets from Therapy Dogs, Inc. in Augusta and the vets get together. The visit is made possible by the people who volunteer their dogs and their time to bring a little comfort and joy and furry companionship.
“When you consider how few dogs would be able to do this, how few people with their dogs…these are not dogs they come and get. These are they own dogs, so when you get the combination, it's a very rare commodity,” said Marlene Stachowiak, of Therapy Dogs, Inc.
And, for veteran Robert Dunn, the commodity is good as gold. He's a 100 percent disabled veteran, but when the therapy dogs come, he's gets down on the floor to go eyeball to eyeball with his four-legged friends. “It's a big deal to us. I love dogs. Personally, it's great to know these people love their dogs as much as they do, and I love them, as well, sir,” said Dunn.
“You were absolutely floored?” I asked Dunn.
“Definitely, yes,” said Dunn.
The practice of bringing therapy dogs to patients isn't new in Augusta. Therapy Dogs, Inc. has been around twenty years, but new volunteers are making sure the program continues.
This was the first time Theresa Patton and her dog Scout were on a visit…Theresa deciding to get involved after she spent time in the hospital and therapy dogs visited her. “It made things better for me so to be able to turn around and do this for somebody else means a lot,” she said.
This was also Tina Riley’s first time with her dog Helen. She and Helen are volunteering in honor of Tina's parents. “My mom would be really proud. She named her, and for my dad…who passed away three years ago, she would be really proud of her, so that's why we do it,” she said, choking back a tear.
These veterans served their country, faced danger…and even death, but it's these faces they like to see and the volunteers love to see and hear the responses their visits prompted.
“I like to play with them, rub them, find out what types they are…the different ones, and every time they come a different breed or something I haven't seen, and I like that,” said Robert Turner, a vet from Aiken.
“He had said it didn't just make his day it made his life,” said Stachowiak, speaking of a vet who at first didn’t want the dogs to visit.
And at the VA Medical Center, the dog days can be really good days on both sides of the leash.
“It was really great, we had fun and she had a blast,” said Patton, speaking of Scout.
It is dog gone difficult to see who had the better time.