An essay and photos contributed by Christine Anastos, A-DOG member, to share her meaningful work helping chlidren through tragedy and challenge with her sensitive, loving therapy dog, Windy. (Please note that the two photos of Windy with Boston Police Department officers were taken by Gretta Rybus)
On October 10, 2009, I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to adopt a Black Labrador Retriever, and retired guide dog, Windy, from Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, NY. From the moment I met her, and saw that “look” in her eyes, I vowed to share this amazing dog with others. Windy fills my life with those “Heavenly Days” – popularized by songwriter Patty Griffin – and, I strive to ensure that she does the same for others.
Windy has been working as a therapy dog at the Youth Villages/Germaine Lawrence Treatment Center for girls with serious emotional and behavioral issues in Arlington, MA and, more recently, has been involved in the ongoing response of therapy dogs to the Newtown killings and the Boston Marathon bombings. In all settings, I have witnessed the impact that Windy has on those who she encounters. Depending on the circumstances, Windy can easily transition from one extreme to another. Specifically, she may be seen leaning against someone’s leg, writhing around on her back in ecstasy while having her belly rubbed, lying on her side so that she can be petted, or wagging her tail nonstop like a propeller.
In the words of one student from Newtown, “In a great tragedy you have brought us happiness. If your job is to make us happy, you have exceeded standards.” Another student, whose cousin was killed in the tragedy, sent Windy a letter that read, “We can never thank you enough for being the best therapy dog there is and coming to us every Friday. You light up everybody’s day so much. Thank you for being yourself!” Windy’s playful side was described by another student as, “I loved when you came to Physical Education and ran laps with us. It was so cute. I also liked your soft fur and your ears! You were so gentle and kind to everyone. We love you.”
Windy appears to excel at what she does because she is extremely sensitive and takes in all of the emotion. She wants to help – and, actively seeks out those in need; it is fascinating to observe her in action. With her calm confidence, gentle demeanor, and caring gaze, she quickly turns tears and fears into smiles and laughs. Windy’s unconditional love, which is expressed in a variety of ways – e.g., her affection and attentiveness, inquisitive and mesmerizing eyes, her acrobatic movements – is hard to resist. I have been told by people, both young and old, that Windy’s healing presence gives them strength and, further, that they feel she really cares about them.
Watching Windy “work” is particularly rewarding to me since I have accomplished even more than what I set out to do with my loyal companion and devoted therapy dog.