Buddy and Leslie offer smiles, cuddles, and happiness
Peninsula native and Brisbane resident Leslie Davis set out to adopt a dog in March 2019. She says she didn’t care about breed or gender. “I just wanted a happy dog.”
When she saw Buddy, a 1.5-year-old Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix, she knew the happy, gentle giant was the one. From their very first walk together, she says, “He has to say hi to everyone – he loves people.” And people love him – kids will come running to say hi when they see him around town.
One of Leslie’s friends was a pet assisted therapy volunteer with the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (PHS/SPCA) in Burlingame. “She told me how gratifying it is,” says Leslie, “and I thought ‘that’s Buddy’s calling!’”
With help (and transportation) from Leslie, Buddy has turned his joy into a job he loves. Once the duo completed their training with PHS/SPCA, Leslie and Buddy signed up to visit people in assisted living facilities and young readers at the Westlake Branch Library in Daly City.
Marivic Dizon, coordinator of the PHS/SPCA Pet Assisted Therapy program, suggested they also consider visiting hospice patients, and Leslie loved the idea. She’d seen how much her family benefited from hospice care when her sister and dad needed care. “I found it so graceful, and I wanted to give back.”
So Marivic put Leslie in touch with Craig Schroeder, our Director of Volunteer Services, and over the following months, Leslie completed our Direct Care Volunteer training.
Leslie and Buddy now visit Mission Hospice patients weekly in their homes and at Mission House. “It’s so nice to see people smile while we’re there. We’re bringing happiness.”
“When a pet team visits a patient,” Craig explains, “they offer unconditional love. The look in a patient’s eyes when a pet visits is nothing but joy and connection. It can be the highlight of their week.”
There’s science behind this connection, says Marivic. “When you pet an animal – especially a dog – it can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress, and increase feel-good hormones like oxytocin.”
During a visit at Mission House, Leslie says one patient asked if Buddy could come up on the bed with her. At 104 pounds, Buddy (who is not allowed on the furniture at home) got right up on the bed and snuggled with her. The woman even asked for her phone so she could take selfies with him.
Craig says that Leslie and Buddy are among a handful of Mission Hospice pet therapy teams – and there’s a great demand for more. He explains that most of our pet therapy volunteers come through our partnership with PHS/SPCA. “Marivic is very supportive – and really understands what her program can bring hospice patients.” Mission Hospice also works with Pet Partners, a national nonprofit that trains and supports therapy animal teams.
While the training through PHS/SPCA and Mission Hospice was extensive, Leslie says she’s so grateful she signed up for it. And Buddy loves his “job.” When Leslie is wearing her PHS shirt and puts on his “therapy dog” bandana, Buddy gets excited because he knows he’s “going to work.”
“I’ve found this more rewarding and fulfilling than I ever imagined,” says Leslie. “At first I thought I’d be just the chauffeur, but we’re truly a team. It’s very rewarding to make somebody’s day.”
Both Mission Hospice and the Peninsula Humane Society/SPCA welcome pet therapy teams. For more information, contact Craig Schroeder at 650.532.2323 or by email.