Animal-Assisted Therapy involves working with someone when a specific goal has been identified. If you do this as a volunteer, you will work with a professional who will assist you in selecting goals for different individuals.



Meet Cancer Treatment Grant Recipient: Haley

This story "Haley's Journey" comes from ~ John Ferguson, in Richmond, Kentucky. You can see Haley's growing up years at this special page.

Haley is shown here with one of the
therapists that she has assisted.

Haley is our eight year-old Standard Poodle. When I first met Haley in Ohio, at the age of five months, (and the last of the litter of pups), little did I realize what a compassionate and caring canine that I was getting. She adjusted quickly to life in Kentucky and we began doing Obedience Training shortly after her arrival in our home. She was a quick study and was so eager to please. She passed her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test and was certified/registered with Therapy Dogs Incorporated (now Alliance of Therapy Dogs) in April, 2013. Haley was also certified through Intermountain Therapy Animals as a National Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ) in early 2014.

I quickly immersed Haley into multiple Therapy Dog & Animal Assisted Activities, wanting to see what the “best fit” for her might be. Some of her activities included: assisted living visits; reading education activities at libraries & schools; hospital visits of surgery patients; special needs children at a local elementary school assisting with motor skill development; and assistive therapy in a brain injury unit at a local rehabilitation hospital in Lexington, KY. She quickly found her “niche” so to speak -- it was working with and demonstrating motor skill activities for the special needs elementary children and assisting the physical therapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists at Cardinal Hill Hospital, Brain Injury Unit, Lexington, Kentucky. (Since August, 2013).

She assists in a variety of venues at the brain injury unit (BIU), working with the therapist and the patient on whatever the specific goals are for that session on that day. (Brushing, throwing & retrieving, walking with the patient, memory recall, giving directions, verbal commands, etc.). Haley has also presented at Occupational Therapy student conferences, State Teacher Conferences, Southern District Conferences for teachers in special education and physical education, sharing her animal assisted activities as well as current ongoing research that she is involved with in the area of occupational therapy. She has most recently presented at Miami of Ohio University at the Lilly Conference on College Teaching & Learning in November, 2019.

Haley has been devoting most of her energies to the rehabilitation hospital, since she is on-call five days per week, until recently. In early November, 2019, Haley had a nosebleed on the right side of her nasal cavity. (I have never had a dog with a nosebleed!) I did what I thought was appropriate to stop the bleeding, but eventually took her to my local veterinarian and he kept her overnight. He told me to monitor her and watch for any more bleeding and that he would do a tissue biopsy, If and when, it occurred again. Occur again, it did, and he performed the tissue biopsy near Thanksgiving, 2019. The sample was sent to Pathology and the diagnosis was adenocarcinoma cancer of the right nasal cavity, near the right eye.

The suggestion was to have a CT scan performed to truly know the extent of the tumor and if it had metastasized. The nearest hospital that could do this was the University of Tennessee Teaching Hospital for Animals, Knoxville, TN. (U.T.) We thought and prayed about this decision and decided to have the CT scan performed and our veterinarian made the referral to the appropriate offices at U.T. The scan was performed on December 18, 2019 and it was determined that the tumor was also touching the bony area at the edge of her brain and was also in her right lymph nodes. Dr. I. Pfeiffer, U.T. oncologist, told us that radiation was the prescribed method of treatment (5 straight days--$3,000) for this type of cancer and if we decided to schedule her we would need to wait until January 6, 2020 until it could be performed.

We decided to go forward with the radiation treatments and Haley was boarded at the hospital since we live about a three hour drive from Knoxville, TN. She completed her radiation treatments on January 10, 2020 and returned home. She will return for a follow-up visit on January 29, 2020 to have a thorough physical, etc. Even though the cancer is not curable, it is treatable, and the hospital is hoping that she will have an improved quality of life and that they may be able to “stop the clock” so to speak. Six to twenty-five months is the time span that we are hoping for, but we will be grateful for anything at this point. After about four weeks, we hope to resume Haley’s normal work routine and may even expand into the area of cancer treatment patients at the hospital.

We were recently encouraged by Rochelle Lesser, at Land of PureGold Foundation, Inc., to submit an application for one of the grants that are available for full-time working dogs. I submitted the application, trying not to be overly optimistic or pessimistic, and on January 13, 2020, Haley was approved for a $1,000.00 grant to assist with her expenses during her diagnosis and treatment! Needless to say, I was super excited and extremely grateful to Rochelle, her donors and the entire organization and the work that they are doing now and going forward. I plan to be a future contributor in whatever ways that I can. Thank you for helping our canines try to eradicate this disease and improving and extending their quality of life!



A SAD UPDATE from John Ferguson, February 13, 2020:
I had to say goodbye to our girl this evening, she took a turn for the worse last Friday & it was all downhill after that. We couldn’t use Chemo because she became so weak.  But, we got to extend her life from November, 2019 until Feb. 13, 2020.  She was easily the most intuitive and compassionate canine that I have had in my 50 years of Poodles. She touched so many lives over the last eight years. Thank you for the financial assistance which your foundation provided. I will forever be indebted to you for your kindness & I plan to be a donor in some way. Thank you.