Dogs are called our “Best Friends” for a good reason: they are incredibly good for your health and tend to be irreplaceable members of our families. Not to mention, they often go above and beyond in making us happy and helping us deal with any mental health issues and concerns we might be going through. So it’s not surprising that we here at St. John Ambulance Manitoba absolutely love working with them!
Our Therapy Dog Program is home to many of our furry friends, but unfortunately one of them has passed away recently. Chris and Leanne Stoddart and her dog Trooper (shown above) have been serving on our Therapy Dog Program for over 8 years. As an energetic and irreplaceable member of Leanne’s family, Trooper had volunteered in many venues across Winnipeg; according to Leanne, “…his joyous reach went far beyond what we had expected,” and in the time he spent being one of our therapy dogs, we have no doubt that he has changed many people’s lives.
One of Trooper’s volunteer duties was often going to schools where he interacted with kids experiencing anxiety and mental health challenges (as well as social and physical ones). Through a wonderful turn of events, one of the kids who interacted with Trooper, who was a middle schooler at the time, had been studying in high school for about 3 years, where it just happened to be one of Leanne’s friends was her teacher.
As part of their assignment, students were encouraged to write a non-fiction journal about a situation they experienced in the past, which was related to the book they were reading. In her journal entry, this student mentioned her time with Trooper and just how much of an impact it left on her during their visits!
The student was reporting on a book where the author was sharing how a service dog makes your life better; the author mentioned that over the first year with her new therapy dog, she states that “…the beauty of our relationship was that Ramona [her therapy dog] needed me, and I needed her.” (Davis, Burnell 24). The student then shared the time that she spent with Trooper during her middle school years and how much he was the highlight of her day when she met him, no matter how rough her day might have been.
She concludes by saying that Trooper was sometimes the reason she often got through her classes and that any worries or anxious thoughts she might have had at that time will quickly go away once she met up with Trooper. “I will never forget the memories I made [with] him,” she concludes her journal entry, “He was my middle school angel.”
At moments like these, we often feel empowered and encourage to continue sharing our volunteers’ stories and showing everyone just how much of a difference our therapy dogs can make in people’s lives. Even though Trooper is no longer with us, his curly fur and irresistible personality will remain in our hearts for many years to come.
If you’re interested to learn more about our Therapy Dog program, visit us at https://sja.ca/en/community-services/therapy-dog-program