Between them, Molly and Ed have lived 92 years. Together, they have made more than 1,000 therapy visits – to schools, assisted living facilities, day care centers and other sites. As a registered Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) pet therapy team, they have comforted those who were near the end of life, calmed frightened children, coaxed conversation out of those reluctant to speak, and in at least one instance, may have helped turn a life around.
A Scared Refugee
When she was 3-years-old Molly barely survived Hurricane Katrina. Abandoned and scheduled to be euthanized, she was given another chance at Boxer Aid and Rescue Coalition (BARC) in Tallahassee, FL and a BARC foster home in nearby Monticello. That’s where Molly met Ed.
The Florida retiree had recently lost a Boxer and didn’t know whether he was ready for another dog, but agreed to take a look. When the two met it was love at first sight.
The three-year old dog noticed that Ed’s car window was open, made a beeline for the car, and flew through the window. Ed says she sat down and looked at him as if to say, “well, let’s go!”
“She knew exactly what she was doing,” he said.
A New Purpose in Life
Molly settled into her new home quickly and Ed knew she would be a perfect therapy dog. “She is the most lovable, affectionate dog,” Ed said. The duo have been touching lives throughout the Tallahassee area now for over a decade.
Ed and Molly signed up for training classes through Pet Partners, and eight weeks later they were a certified team. Pet Partners is the nation’s most prestigious non-profit registering multiple species with their handlers as therapy animal teams providing animal-assisted interactions.
For the past two years, the pair has worked with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Animal Therapy. TMH Animal Therapy Program Manager Stephanie Perkins says Ed and Molly are “truly inspirational.”
Ed tells the story of one man in an assisted-living facility the team visited for about a year. Charlie used a wheelchair and usually sat alone – at least until Molly arrived. To the man’s delight, she would sit right next to him; sometimes putting her front feet and her head in his lap.
When Charlie took a turn for the worse they visited him in his room — Molly on the bed next to him, resting her head on his stomach. On the shelf in Charlie’s room was a photo of a Boxer that Charlie’s daughter identified as a dog from her father’s past named Princess.
Although Charlie was very weak, he turned to Molly and began to speak. “Princess is here to say hello,” he said quietly. “Thank you Princess – I love you so much.”
Charlie passed away before the team’s next visit. His daughter reported the last words her father said to her; “Thank you for bringing Princess to see me one last time.”
Ed says that becoming a Pet Partners therapy animal team is the best thing he’s ever done. “This is the most fabulous experience of my life,” he said. “It’s a great experience for Molly and the people we visit as well …everyone wins.”
Although she is friendly toward everyone, Molly especially loves kids. She adores Ed’s two grandchildren and follows them around the house when they come for a visit.
Time spent in the community is no different.
“Without fail, one or two kids will really affect her.” Ed said. “She will go right over to them and rest her head in their lap.”
Ed says one particular visit may have forever changed a life for the better.
The team were giving a presentation at a school for at-risk teenagers; sitting among the students on the floor. Molly approached one young man and crawled into his lap. For more than an hour, they sat together, while the teenager gently stroked Molly’s fur.
“When we left, the young man said that Molly made such a positive impression on him that he intended to become a vet,” Ed said. “We later found out that he actually applied to the University of Florida and was accepted.”
Ed says that becoming a Pet Partners team – both with Molly and also with his earlier Boxer – is the best thing he’s ever done.
“This is the most fabulous experience of my life,” he said. “I never imagined I’d be having so much fun. And it’s a great experience for the people we visit, and for Molly and me … everyone wins.
For more information about how to become a registered team or to start a visiting animal program, please visit www.petpartners.org.