Lucy leads a dog’s life
Lucy is no ordinary volunteer at The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC). Patients light up when they see her. They often strike up a conversation with Lucy and she basks in the attention.
Lucy is a five-year-old dog. To be more precise, she is a Goldendoodle. This breed is part Golden Retriever and Poodle. Lucy has a shaggy white coat that makes people want to cuddle her.
Lucy and her owner Courtney Smith are part of the Pet Therapy volunteer program at the CTRC. Courtney ushers Lucy into the center’s clinics to interact with patients and care givers.
“People instantly light up,” Courtney says. “People start sharing stores about their own dogs. They want to know more about Lucy. This is a good way to engage patients.”
Lucy was prepared for her volunteer role by PAWS for Service, a non-profit organization that trains and certifies pets to operate in a clinical environment.
PAWS is an acronym for Pets Are Wonderful Support. The organization places dog teams in the greater San Antonio area to give encouragement, support and comfort to people.
Courtney, a busy mother of three children, thought about volunteering at the CTRC after learning about a friend’s experience with cancer. “I wanted to do something to give back,” she explains.
Courtney enjoys watching Lucy work her charm. “She is very calm, very smart and loves every encounter with people. I am blessed to be able to share her with people, “ she says.
Often patients are moved by Lucy’s appearance to talk about their battle with cancer. “I listen and try to comfort them. People going through cancer just want someone to sit and talk with them.”
During these conversations, patients often reach out and pet Lucy. They can’t help themselves. Lucy has that look that invites an instant connection.
“Nothing fazes her,” Courtney says with a smile. “You can pull on her hair and she won’t move. When people talk to her, Lucy responds in a way that relaxes people.”
Lucy is not the only part of this team with special training. Courtney holds a masters degree in counseling from Texas State University. Together they are enhancing the patient experience at the CTRC.