Troupe Member of the Month - Chris Hardy-Atwell and Bentley (In Memory)
Chris Hardy-Atwell and Bentley joined the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe in the spring of 2020. One month later the COVID shutdown happened, so their therapy career did really begin until the fall of 2021. Chris’s canine partner was Bentley, a 12 and ½ year old sable and white Rough Collie. They enjoyed visiting at the Cardinal Bernadin Cancer Center at Loyola twice each month, as well as veterans at Hines VA Hospital when Hines welcomed therapy dogs back in late summer of 2022. Chris and Bentley also worked with physical therapists at Tryability Neurorecovery in Downers Grove to help clients regain motor skills that have been impacted by traumatic brain injuries. Tragically, Chris lost her beloved partner in late November of 2022, so this recognition is posthumous and very bittersweet for her.
Here is what Chris had to say about Bentley and their PAWSitive Therapy Troupe experiences.
“Bentley was a humble, loving giant that walked under the radar of ribbons, bells and certificates. I admired “him” so much and loved him to pieces❤️ I realized that he might have a vocation for therapy work when he would watch my 97-year-old father in his wheelchair and let me know if he tried to get up without assistance by barking. Bentley wanted to greet anyone he saw in wheelchairs on our walks around Downers Grove, Hinsdale. and Naperville. I realized that my special boy might enjoy therapy work, since it was obvious that empathy was in his DNA.
We chose the Loyola Cancer Center because my mother was treated there for her pancreatic cancer. I remember how afraid she was. I wanted to give back. The Cancer Center is a hard visit, but we loved it. I was proud of my uniform and what it represented. I was also proud of Bentley’s humbleness and kindness. When we walked into the Cancer Center, doctors and nurses would say, “Here’s Bentley, Loyola’s Cancer Mascot!” Patients would ask for their chemo infusion treatments when Bentley was scheduled to be there. If the infusion treatment burned, they’d squeeze his mane. Unbelievable that our dog had such an extraordinary effect on so many patients, doctors and nurses. Everyone wanted their picture taken with “Lassie”!
Bentley was equally valued at the Tryability Neurorecovery in Downers Grove. If patients could get out of their wheelchairs and walk (in a hoist) to him, they could then sit and pet Bentley as a reward. I would clap and cheer for them as they smiled and hugged Bentley. It was an awesome experience. I loved doing this work with the best therapy dog on the planet!
Bentley loved putting on his therapy vest. He could not wait to get out of the car and go inside. He literally walked up to everyone to say hello. We did not leave until he had personally greeted everyone. I was privileged to be his human therapy partner. He was bigger than life and very calm in all situations. He was extraordinary and I was so blessed to have him in my life.“
On behalf of all of us in the Troupe, thank you for dedication. Our deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved Bentley.
The PAWSitive Therapy Troupe is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to sharing registered therapy dogs with individuals in a wide variety of health care and educational settings--bringing comfort, support and encouragement through the unique healing power of the human-animal bond.
What is the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe?
The PAWSitive Therapy Troupe is an Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy program designed to share registered therapy dogs with patients and students in a variety of health care and educational settings.
What are Animal-Assisted Activities / Therapy?
Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) share registered therapy dogs with patients or students in a variety of activities such as individual bedside visits, entertaining demonstrations or educational sessions. Animal- Assisted Activities are not necessarily goal-directed, but they are nonetheless certainly therapeutic in nature.
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is goal-directed intervention in which a therapy dog is an integral part of the clinical treatment process. It is directed by a licensed health care or education professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of his or her profession. AAT is designed to promote improvement in physical, social, emotional and / or cognitive functioning / reading skills. This process is documented in the health care record by the health care professional or in the education plan by the education professional.
Is there a Difference Between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog?
Yes! Therapy dogs are NOT “service”, or “assistance” dogs. Service dogs include guide dogs for the blind; hearing dogs that alert their owners to sounds; mobility assistance dogs, which may pull a wheelchair or directly support a person; seizure alert dogs; and others like them. Service dogs are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. People with disabilities can BY LAW, take their service dogs with them wherever they go, including planes, restaurants, sporting events, etc.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that therapy dogs and their handlers have the same rights of access as people with disabilities and their service animals. Therapy dogs are NOT service dogs. They are NOT allowed to accompany their handlers wherever they go. Therapy dogs are invited into hospitals, nursing homes or schools to work with patients or students on very specific tasks, or simply to bring their unconditional love to the many people who need them in these facilities. Therapy dogs and their handlers have no more rights of access than anyone with a companion animal or pet.
Therapy dogs are always first and foremost beloved family pets. You cannot “buy” a ready made therapy dog. Therapy dogs and their owners, because of their interest in therapy work have undergone additional rigorous training to prepare them to function reliably in health care or educational settings. Therapy dogs live at home with their families when they are not working.