A year ago my vet Dr. Jeanne Baines of Home Veterinary Care was visiting, and she has known Penny several years, and while she was giving Penny shots and other yearly pokes and prods said "Oh my goodness, Penny is so friendly, she should become a Cornell Companion and go to Longview as a therapy dog!".  The Dr. was noticing that despite the pain and indignity involved in a yearly exam, Penny was unbelieveably happy to see the Dr. and having a great time.  Penny is so friendly and outgoing, she loves the vet! She loves everybody.

I am good friends with Kerry Barnes, the community relations representative at Longview, and arranged visits there right away.  We had no idea what we might be doing, but the friendly recreation department there helped us get rolling.  I am a shy person, but Penny loves everybody and so from the beginning I have followed her. There are folks with apartments at Longview, and we start there, saying hello to anyone we come across.  She is listed on the daily activity board, when we are coming, and some people come to the lounge to see her.  Then we go down to see some of the folks who need more help with daily living.  I pick Penny up into laps when somebody is in a wheelchair, or hold her up to people who may have a walker.  She just rolls around and acts friendly.  People are so nice to us, Longview has got to be the most friendly place on Earth!

We were accepted as Cornell Companions in the fall and went through training.  As part of that, this spring we start visiting hospice.  There is a lot of training for me, as mandated by law, before we are able to visit there every week.  But Penny made her first visit there last week and was comfortable and having fun, so we will begin in April.

1.  Please tell me about Penny's background/training/how long you have had her and your connection with Cornell Companions/please tell me about yourself

Penny was around age 2 and had evidently just given birth to puppies back in 2007 when I was a volunteer at Tompkins County SPCA.  There were maybe 15 pit bulls or rottweilers or other big dogs back in the cages and the director said "this dog is special, she is living in my office" and opened the door and Penny came out and crawled into my lap and kissed me.  I adopted her during my training at the SPCA!  She was so sweet.  Nobody ever found her puppies, she was healthy but it did not seem like she was abused or neglected, so it was suspected that as a beagle, maybe she had caught a scent and RUN hundreds of miles...and gotten lost.

I myself am a full-time artist and have a flexible schedule.  That is how I am able to easily schedule volunteer visits.  I portray Penny in much of my work. Examples of my work are easily viewed at www.garyrith.com 

2.  Was it your intention to take Penny along on visits as a "therapy dog" from the very beginning, and if so, why, and if not, how did the idea come about?  How did the visits to Longview get started?

Please see above.

3.  Please tell me what you have seen first-hand as Penny visits with senior community members (maybe a good story that comes to your mind)
There is sometimes a person at Longview who does not like dogs, and I am careful to be polite and only talk to people who want to talk to us.  99 percent of people are glad to see her, she jumps into their lap or comes up to them to be rubbed.  There is one person we see every week, an elderly woman who does not seem to be able to speak.  I know who she is and make sure we find her.  I hold Penny up to her lap, and her whole face lights up with happiness!  She pats and rubs Penny like she has never seen such a wonderful thing before in her life.  That certainly makes your day, and Penny is just happy to see her everytime.  There is also another person we see every week whose memory may not be very reliable plus they have lost some of their vision, and she is also delighted to have Penny to rub.  Penny has a soft coat and big ears, and people enjoytouching her.

4.  Please tell me how you got involved in taking Penny to Hospicare and when that will start, and does Penny need special training for that situation?
See above in part.
Hospice requires for ME about 20 hours training, a physical and various shots.  All Penny has to do is show up and do her friendly thing.
As a Cornell Companion dog we have many options for visiting sites, such as Cornell Law School or other events at the library and so on.  HOWEVER, Penny does not like most other dogs.  Hospice works for us because a)  I can go to Longview then drive the short distance to hospice right after, visiting 2 places in one afternoon and b)  hospice only has one dog visit at a time.  Penny loves people but does not like most other dogs.

5.  Do you have other pets or just Penny, and what breed is Penny, and what is her age?
Penny is a 7 year old pure bred 13 inch beagle.  We have a large grey tiger named Spike who is her best friend, and she has some other dogs she likes here and there.  She has to get used to other dogs before she likes them, although she is A + with humans:  from baby to elderly she is the most kindly friend a human could meet.  According to Dr. Baines, our vet who also has a beagle, this is typical of beagles:  they are the friendliest to humans, but don't always like other dogs.