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First Person: The Healing Love Of A Therapy Dog

August 28, 2017 1:24 p.m.

First Person: The Healing Love Of A Therapy Dog


Bob Schultze, volunteer, Pet Encounter Therapy Program, Helen Woodward Animal Center

Related Story: First Person: The Healing Love Of A Therapy Dog


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

It is time for the latest installment of our series First Person , stories a San Diegans told him there -- their own voice. Not many say the dogs make them want to be better people. Bob Schultz -- Bob's dog has that effect because of how he helps others as a world-class therapy dog. It was not always that way with Hudson. When he first adopted the Italian Greyhound into thousand eight, he has social and behavioral issues to overcome. After several years of training, Bob and Hudson began making visits to senior sitters -- centers. This was an effort to help people feel better and spread a little joy. Here is Bob Schultze .

My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He was living in a memory care facility for quite a while. Towards the end of his life when he was very ill, he did not acknowledge or recognize his caregivers or family or anyone. There were rare moments when a therapy dog would be in his facility. They would come in and you can see my dad's face light up. He just -- you know, it was like turning back the clock to see him happily play with a pet and snuggle with the therapy dogs that came in. I always wanted to be able to get back to the community in a way that was special. That is where Hudson came in. When I adopted him, I had no idea that he would become a therapy dog. Hudson was un-socialized and responded aggressively to other animals and even people when we first adopted him. Over time, is an socialized behavior gave way to more accepting personality that was hidden behind all of that. He has become very gentle and patient and can stir a reaction from the most un-reactive people. I'm very proud of him that way.

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Hudson is a large Italian Greyhound. Usually, they are 13 pounds. Hudson is 20. He has a wonderful physique and is very alert and muscular with very short hair. That is very soft. Hudson's size makes it easy to have him accompany people on the beds. He snuggles right in and makes the people feel comfortable. He reminds them of pets that they used to have. It is spontaneous.

One story that comes to mind is we were at a facility in San Diego. We went to visit a resident that had been unresponsive for about three weeks. The family asked me if I would put Hudson on the bed with their dad because he had always loved dogs. Hudson molded himself into the body of this gentleman that was just laying there without moving. Not getting a response from the individual, Hudson outstretched his head and laid it on the gentleman's hand. Almost immediately, the gentleman started to stroke Hudson's head. When I looked up at the end of the visit, almost everyone in the room had tears in their eyes because this gentleman had not responded to any stimuli at all for several weeks.

It was one of the most rewarding things that I have ever encountered. I do it every time I go out with Hudson. We have made over 200 visits at this point. He makes me very proud every time we go somewhere. I feel connected to the community. I feel like I am doing something positive. It is so gratifying to go out with them and to see him in action. I already think about, you know, when he goes and the sadness that I will feel. As of this point, he is still relatively healthy and loves going to see people and I will nurse it for every second I can. I think Hudson for myself is transforming me as well. I have always been painfully shy and perhaps to a fault. Hudson has made it very easy for me to speak with people. People engage me in conversation. He says handsome little dog. It does draw people in. He is always willing to go or do or meet new people. Probably the only thing he does not like is skateboards. [ laughter ] I can look past that myself.

That was Bob Schultze and his Greyhound Hudson. This summer -- summer they inducted Hudson into the animal Hall of Fame. The first person teacher was produced by Megan Burke.