SOME CALL THEM HEALERS –

By Wednesday, April 20, 2022 28 No tags Permalink

To me, they’re my boys…

Alice Keeney Photography

Yet some call them healers…

Alice Keeney Photography

I had never thought of them that way – until I was approached by a local photographer named Alice Keeney.

Alice was one of three Southern artists, commissioned to provide photographs for a City Gallery Exhibition titled – 

Prototype for a Landscape

Charleston City Gallery

The exhibit was to shine a light on the unspoken connections that hold our communities together through portraits of healers, celestial constellations, and molecular forces.

I graciously accepted to be a part of the exhibit.

It was an honor to receive the invitation to participate. I was humbled, yet proud to know the Boys were considered healers in the community. For Alice to chose the word – healers – to describe how she saw them moved me beyond any coherent response.

Many thoughts ran through my mind as we posed, played, and laughed through the photoshoot…

Alice Keeney Photography

While Alice asked more questions about what the Boys do at the hospital, I shared all I could during the hour-long session.

AS I BEGAN TO TALK  

about therapy dogs in general, I realized how many endearing labels they actually have.

I felt my heart swelling with adoration as I shared stories about Harley…

Alice Keeney Photography

He has been the conduit between pediatric patients and their parents for years. I cannot begin to count the many times he rode on a gurney into the OR pre-op stations. Harley remained content allowing dozens of children to play with his tail, pre-occupied and entertained by his soft ears while nurses prepped IVs and sedation medication…

I watched mothers (and sometimes fathers) hug him gently and sob softly in his neck as I reassured them that their son/daughter did well. They listened intently as I described how fast their child drifted to sleep without fear… #hesacomforter

Harley has sat on many infusion patient laps reclined in a chair. Harley will snuggle up in their blanket while they talk on the phone to a friend, family member, or colleague telling tales of how the therapy dog’s back again today! #hesafriend

THEN THERE’S JAXSON

Alice Keeney Photography

whose talents differ from those of his brother. Perhaps because of his size or Spicoli-type personality, he excels in a more active canine therapeutic role. Known on certain orthopedic floors as –

the one to get the job done!

I marvel at how he’s able to both motivate and relax a patient effortlessly #mustbetheface

Alice Keeney Photography

Pure joy radiates the face of an elderly patient learning how to live with the constant tremors of Parkinson’s disease. Jax wears a customized service vest covered with buttons snaps and strings. Each week he learns how to improve his motor skills to help him dress independently every day…

YouTube player

At the end of every session, he and Jax hug to celebrate his improvement. #hesasupporter

SOME CALL THEM HEALERS

because of how trained therapy dogs (or other animals) help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders.

I’d learned the photography pieces in this exhibit were meant to evoke a sense of community during one of the most difficult months of our lifetime – COVID 19 – and demonstrate –

that there is much more to a landscape when we consider the connections beyond the surface.

– As I reflected back on just a fraction of what I’d witnessed, I had no problem putting on paper my take on Harley & Jaxson …as #healers.

I wrote –

As working therapy dogs, our routine at the hospital abruptly stopped due to a pandemic furlough. I slowly began to realize how much my husband and I relied on them as personal therapists. They were there to ease our adjustment into the forced, restructured, mundane lifestyle we were defining as our new normal. Therapy animals are masters at deciphering a human’s emotional confusion. Gifted with empathy, they can detect sadness, fear, and loneliness. After experiencing more than 20 weeks of our own canine therapeutic intervention, I now have a better understanding of the magical power and importance therapy dogs provide as part of a humans healing process. This valuable life lesson has not only electrified me with ideas on how to enhance an already robust and successful program – therapy dogs have made me realize – through them – healing others is very much a part of my life.

THIS IS THE PHOTO

Alice chose to hang in the Charleston City Gallery along with my words…

Alice Keeney Photography

It was a privilege! #theyareallthat

When the world around me is going crazy, & I’m losing faith in humanity, I just have to take one look at my dog to know that good still exists ❤️

28 Comments
  • Deirdre
    April 20, 2022

    Oh my gosh — this is beyond beautiful. The pictures, the words, the video, the work you are doing. Congratulations on such a wonderful moment in your life –and in the boys’ lives. Well done! You have made a difference .

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Thanks Deirdre, thanks for hanging with me all these years too! I hope this comment finds you well, safe and happy. Take care my friend…

  • Cheryl
    April 20, 2022

    What a thoughtful idea for an exhibit! The photos of the 3 of you are beautiful, I hope you get to have copies of them. I knew the boys were therapy dogs, but never knew what that really entailed, thanks for the detailed job description. The boys are angels in fur! ❤️

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Hey Cheryl – It was a really nice exhibit, It was the idea of the city and once the photographers were selected, they were allowed to choose their subjects. I’d never met Alice before, but we clicked over the phone and a friendship has developed from this. She gave all the copies to me and we hope to collaborate again soon.

  • Pennye Hallam
    April 20, 2022

    Your words and pictures capture the spirit of Pet Therapy only their handlers have the privilege to witness. it is truly a blessing to serve others in this capacity by sharing the healing powers we know to exist in these marvelous creatures that God has blessed us with. Thank you for all that you and “the boys” have brought to so many.

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Pennye, thank you for those kind words. I love this role that I’ve been blessed to play. I believe there is so much work to be done and I am ready and up to the task. Teams like you and Pete were my inspiration and even in your absence I hold those trailblazing moments close to my chest. I am energized by how far we’ve come and excited about how far I know we can go. Thank you for all that you’ve given to all of us. You and Pete were in my words in this story.

  • Vicki Brumbelow
    April 21, 2022

    Wonderful photos and article. And the photographer picked the perfect team to represent the world of therapy dogs and handlers.

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Thank you so much Vicki – I miss you and Charlie. Your presence, professionalism and guidance when you were active on the team was something I looked up to and learned from. I cherish those talks and I hope you are well.

  • Kathleen Dolaher
    April 21, 2022

    I love these photos and story!

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Thank you so much Kathleen. I really wanted to do Alice’s photos justice. I was very excited about writing this post.

  • Tiffany
    April 21, 2022

    You should be very proud of the impact that you’re making on peoples lives. I’m so proud of you and the boys.

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Thanks so much Mrs.Cuatero – those words mean the world to me!

  • Pamela
    April 21, 2022

    Please tell me you’re planning to write a book. Because this was such a lovely post and I want to read more. Best happy cry I’ve had in ages.

    And, of course, Ms Keeney should take the photos.

    • Debbie Matos
      April 22, 2022

      I totally agree with this post!

      • Cathy Bennett
        April 23, 2022

        Thank you Debbie – appreciate you!

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Well Pamela – I hadn’t really given that a thought – I would love to (one day) but right now I am trying to finish a book (yep!) about Goldendoodles… Stay tuned 🙂

  • Monika @ Tails Around the Ranch
    April 21, 2022

    And they’d be right. What an amazing bunch of images showcasing your healer!

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Hey Monika – Thanks so much. This was a real joy to write. I love watching the Boys at work and Alice captured them perfectly.

  • Colleen Fralinger
    April 21, 2022

    The photos and narrative in this post truly attest to the amazing impact the therapy dogs have on patients/families both in the hospital and in outpatient settings. I am fortunate enough to have experienced these wonderful interactions first hand and it was heartwarming and almost brought tears to my eyes at times. Jaxson truly bonded with the patients he worked with and looked marvelous in his therapy vest! I hope to see the work your boys and other therapy dogs are doing grow exponentially in the future so others can witness the amazing impact they have.

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Dear Colleen, you have helped narrow the gap between canine therapeutic services and medical personnel. What you chose to demonstrate in a OT/PT setting has opened so many doors for AAT work. I will never forget all that you did, and look forward to working with you in the future.

  • Rob Lesch
    April 21, 2022

    I absolutely loved the article and the pictures. You and the “Boys” did all of us proud! Your beautiful description of the therapy work that we perform brought a few tears to my eyes, thanks a lot.

    Rob Lesch and Sydney

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      We are in this together – and because of teams like you and Sydney the journey has been so rewarding – every single day!

  • Beth
    April 21, 2022

    What a gorgeous series of photos! Your quote is beautiful and I was moved to tears reading about Harley and his pediatric patients. Thank you for sharing your boys!

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Hi Beth – thank you so much, Alice was a joy to work with, I hope to collaborate with her again. She is truly gifted. I feel blessed beyond words to be able to share both Harley & Jaxson – they are the healers!

  • Big Walt
    April 21, 2022

    Superb article and tremendous work by a great Team! The photos are great too!! Thanks for your commitment to service!

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Hey there Walt – so happy to know you are still reading – love you big guy!

  • Bob Hardie
    April 22, 2022

    Your eloquent words and Alice Keeney’s striking photos are a moving expression of how therapy dogs touch the lives of all they meet. What an exquisite collaboration between a gifted visual artist and a passionate therapy dog champion and her boys! Bodie and I are honored to work with you.

    Bob Hardie

    • Cathy Bennett
      April 23, 2022

      Thanks Bob – I am blessed to call you friend, and honored to watch you and Bodie change lives each and every week.

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