Saturday, December 31, 2011


Even though I live in Henderson, Nevada, it’s almost impossible to tell where Las Vegas stops and Henderson begins. In my book about my Scottish terrier therapy dog McDuff, I describe how Scotties are “a breed apart.” The same thing applies to Las Vegas. There is no city like it in the world.

Where else would a friend invite you to a “party,” and you end up attending her surprise wedding? Even her mother didn’t have a clue. No bridesmaids, best man, or other nuptial trimmings. Gourmet cupcakes for everyone replaced the traditional wedding cake. Everything was so exciting, so unforgettable, and so Vegas.

Where else could you attend a variety show at a senior center and see participants ages 65 to 85? Okay, that might not be so unusual. But to see a performer in a nun’s habit announce after taking a long, slow look at the audience, “I’m not a nun, and I’m going to get out of this habit.” She began to strip as “The Stripper” blasted throughout the room. She didn’t have a pole, but made real good use of that chair on the stage. Only in Vegas!

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is not true. No matter where life takes me in the future, the memories of beautiful friendships and exciting times I’ve experienced in Las Vegas goes with me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

McDuff's Secret

It’s believed that the bond between a therapy dog and its owner is stronger than ordinary. Perhaps that’s because they partner and share in bringing happiness and joy to others. My Scottish terrier therapy dog lived and breathed to bring comfort and smiles to the elderly, sick, and disabled. I witnessed the life and the future of a fifth grader with crippling reading difficulties change because of reading to McDuff in the Reading with Rover Program.

My life was changed most of all because of Spirit Dog McDuff. I wrote a book, Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog, about my nine-year journey with him and how my life and the lives of others were impacted, even after his death. He taught me many valuable, life-changing lessons. The most important, and the one that has influenced my life the most, was his example of serving others without expecting anything in return. I had to literally drag McDuff across the parking lot to the car after therapy dog visits.

He taught me the secret contained in being of service to others. The secret I learned from him is that you get something beautiful in return when you volunteer to help others. You discover that you help yourself, too, emotionally, physically and mentally. You are not giving; you are getting. And, you get back far more than you give.

I speak to inform and educate seniors, retirees, and baby boomers searching for something worthwhile to do in their spare time about animal assisted therapy and reading programs like Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs Inc., and Reading with Rover. It’s not hard or expensive to brighten up a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital by a visit with your dog. It takes little effort to sit quietly nearby while a young student reads to your dog. Believe me, it can change lives — theirs and yours.