Theresa Thompson says she knew right away that her dog Luna had the potential to be a therapy dog. Theresa had trained dogs for around 8 years and had volunteered with other therapy dogs in the past, and she says, “When I got Luna at 12 weeks, I knew she was special. So I started asking around if anyone knew of any outstanding programs.” Her friend Lisa, a Paws & Think volunteer and Board member, shared some information about the organization, and not long after, Theresa and Luna enrolled in Paws & Think’s therapy training. They started volunteering together as a therapy team in 2019.
Luna is a black lab who Theresa describes as “a very sweet, smart, calm, well-behaved pup who loves people, especially children.” Luna first earned her Canine Good Citizens certificate, and together she and Theresa passed Paws & Think’s therapy team evaluation when Luna was just over a year old. Theresa has taken two additional training classes with Paws & Think to expand on opportunities to serve in their community. She and Luna are trained as a crisis response team with the Paws to Comfort program and also as a Paws to Heal team at St. Vincent.
Every Friday, Theresa and Luna visit at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital (PMCH) as part of the Paws to Heal program. They interact with patients and their families and some of the hospital staff members as well. Theresa’s husband, Mark, volunteers as an escort for St. Vincent and accompanies Theresa and Luna on their Paws to Heal visits each week. Mark is a four-time cancer survivor, so together they chose to focus their visits on the PMCH Oncology unit. Theresa says she loves to see the looks on the parents’ faces when Mark announces that he is a cancer survivor. “I think it gives the parents and the kids such hope,” she says, and she mentions that Mark’s 35 years of experience in pediatrics also make him “the best escort there is for just this type of serving.”
Theresa, Mark, and Luna have shared many memorable visits at St. Vincent where patients and staff members alike seemed to gain so much from interacting with Luna, even if only for a moment. One time a staff member claimed petting Luna cured his headache, and another time a child exclaimed that she wanted to be a dog trainer someday and wished Luna could come home with her. “I feel so special,” the little girl said, after a long visit with Luna. “People at the hospital don’t always remember my name,” Theresa says, “but they always remember Luna’s name, and that is just fine by me!”
As a crisis response team, Theresa and Luna are also on call with Child Abuse Protection and typically do one or two Paws to Comfort visits a week. They have also visited the Crisis Transport Unit and they occasionally do Pause for Paws stress relief visits at offices and college campuses. Theresa says Luna especially loves visiting college campuses where she gets lots of affection from the students. Together they plan to continue to try new Paws & Think venues as they become available.
Theresa and Mark have been married for 31 years, and in addition to Luna they have a 5-year old yellow lab at home. They also volunteer with Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN), where they help to train service dogs.
When asked what stands out to her most about her experience with Paws & Think, Theresa mentions that the Paws to Heal program is “full of so many humble, supportive, caring people.” She also says that she is continuously in awe of the impact of Paws & Think’s Pet Therapy programs overall. “Considering we have over 50 some venues, that is just remarkable to me that so many peoples’ lives are being touched nearly every single day by the therapy teams that Paws & Think has provided training and support to.”