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Volunteering: not just for the dogs

F.E. Warren AFB -- I've never really been the volunteering kind. I've always associated volunteering with painting houses and pouring soup bowls. Not my thing.
Then two years ago, my husband and I adopted a Rottweiler through Cheyenne's Rottweiler Rescue. Well, actually I adopted her. My husband, Rob, was deployed and I called him to let him know what "we" did.
Ladybug never got the memo she's a Rottweiler. She's 90 pounds of pure love. All she wants is for someone to hug her and pet her. And hug her some more. And pet her some more.
Honestly, it got annoying. Lady needed two hours a night of attention. I had to do something.
Therapy Dogs, Incorporated, is an international non-profit corporation where people take their dogs to places like hospitals and the patients pet them. Therapy Dogs, which has more than 8,800 members in the United States, Canada and Mexico, started right here in Cheyenne. What's even more unique is the first Therapy Dog was a Doberman.
In Cheyenne, Therapy Dogs visit the hospitals, the VA, retirement communities, chamber events and even schools. A visit is typically one hour, and sometimes 10 people want to pet your dog and sometimes 100 people want to pet your dog.
Lady loves her Therapy Dogs time. She even has a special dog tag which identifies her as a Therapy Dog. Lady's co-volunteers come in every size, shape and breed: there's a Pug, Basset Hound, Poodle, Labs and even great Pyrenees. King, our German Shepherd, has even gotten in on the action.
Lady and I have friends at all the retirement communities now. "Where's MY Rottweiler?" Diana always asks, who lives at a Cheyenne care center. She teases my husband and I that we are watching her dog until she gets well enough to go home.
Duane is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. He doesn't remember his name, but he remembers he used to raise German Shepherds and loves dogs. In the past year, Duane would only speak with yes or no. He barely remembered what a dog was. Last Wednesday when he saw King he said, "Come here boy!" and scratched his ears and talked to him. It was like we witnessed Duane have a moment's reprieve from a tragic, catastrophic disease.
Dogs are awesome: they bridge the uncrossable boundaries. No matter if someone is a hospital patient for drug addiction or waiting to be admitted at the VA emergency room, they'll talk to you and hug your dog like they've known you all their life. They may be experiencing extreme pain, but will smile as they tell you about the dog they had growing up.
Therapy Dogs has made a huge impact in our life. It gives my husband and I quality time together (especially now that football season is over). It has taught me not to be afraid to start up a conversation with strangers. It's given Lady the attention she needs while making a lot of sick people feel better.
The best part is: it doesn't feel like volunteering; it's not boring or lame. It's fun and the other volunteers are pretty cool. Find the volunteering opportunity that makes you happy -- don't settle for something just because it'll fit into an award package. You'll find you get the best award possible: knowing you made a difference.