We are all familiar with the statistics that describe the impact the pandemic has had on our daily lives. Imagine dealing with all that while at the same time facing the reality of a child with a serious illness or need for major surgery. The children and their families cared for by the Dayton Ronald McDonald House in Ohio do not imagine these possibilities, they live them. Pam Killingsworth, a pet therapist, visits these families with Tucker, a Great Pyrenees puppy from Kentucky she adopted from the National Great Pyrenees Rescue at 12 weeks old.
Tucker rose to pet therapy stardom as the star of “Tucker Tuesdays” at the elementary school where Pam works as an intervention specialist. When COVID-19 hit, the restrictions put in place to prevent its spread disrupted Tucker Tuesdays and closed the doors to many other places Pam and Tucker visited. Looking for other options where Tucker could share his love, Pam decided to ask the Dayton Ronald McDonald House about pet therapy possibilities. After a trial visit, Tucker—who’s certified for pet therapy by the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association—became a regular visitor spending time with the families and children staying there.
When Daniel and Camille William’s infant daughter started aspirating each time she tried to eat, the family decided to seek help from the Dayton Children’s Hospital. While their daughter was undergoing diagnostic tests at the hospital, Daniel, Camille, and son Dexter stayed at the Dayton Ronald McDonald House across the street.
Tucker’s weekly visits with the family gave the Williams family a much-needed chance to decompress. The impact, according to Daniel, was meaningful, “People that come here, the situations that they’re in, can be so stressful. So, to be able to relieve that by simply petting a dog, it’s a great help." Watch Tucker's video at the bottom of this page.
Pam sees it as a way to give something back and do so in the company of these exceptional dogs. “If you like to do something with your dog and give back, it’s the best of both worlds. It really is. You just can’t imagine how fun it is,” says Pam. “I love my dogs and have always taken them with me wherever I went. I noticed people wanting to pet them—especially these big guys who are as gentle as they are soft to the touch—and I just wanted to share that.”
When his son Carson needed the attention of the Dayton Children’s Hospital, the Dayton Ronald McDonald House became a temporary home for Nate and his family. Tucker came to visit the family the night before Carson’s surgery. Nate saw the visit as a way to help his son deal with the procedure planned for the next day. “This would otherwise be a time where we all worry, where Carson would otherwise worry, so the visit was an opportunity for him get his mind off of (everything). He’s able to have a great time, to pet a dog, and just de-stress.”
Tucker, a rescue, is changing the lives of people at the Dayton Ronald McDonald House because people like Pam took the time to offer him a forever home where his very strongest traits bring calm to families often overwhelmed by life. This commitment to helping others embodied in the work done by Pam and Tucker points to a path that could help all of us, especially now. The intent and effort to help those in need is hard-wired into us. When we allow ourselves to follow this predisposition we are able to weather most any storm that visits our lives. For those of us who have “rescued” a Great Pyrenees, we understand precisely how such acts of compassion heal in two directions at once.
To learn more about what the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association does in Ohio, click here.
To learn about pet therapy programs in other parts of the country, click here.