The Brightside: Dolly the dog helping veterans
DELAWARE – September is National Service Dog Month, a time dedicated to honoring dogs who work to help their humans physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Dolly is one Delaware pup who works alongside her owner, Gene Thornton, to bring comfort to people, particularly veterans.
“I was in the army for 27 years, and I did personnel and public affairs on several continents,” Gene said.
Now retired from the army and living in the Dover area, Gene knows first hand how some veterans can feel once they’re home. That’s why she uses her emotional support dog, Dolly, to help other veterans in the state.
“I have, with Dolly, over 200 visits that are logged visits at official places where I can go with Dolly,” Gene said.
Those logged visits often happen at the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford where Dolly serves as a piece of comfort to those who served.
“The dog will often go up putting her head right on their thigh, or being close enough for them to touch,” Gene said.
She says even that act of touching Dolly can help these veterans physically.
“The magic of the therapy dog is that a person who might not work hard in physical therapy, when the dog comes, they’ll lean over, and they’ll pat the dog, and this might be a motion that they haven’t done for a while,” Gene explained.
But the real spark is when the veterans, with the help of Dolly, open up in a more emotional way.
“Another thing the therapy dog will do, it’ll get the person talking,” Gene said. “They might talk about the dog they used to have, or they might talk about places they lived in, the family relationship they had, or the kind of dog they had when they lived there.”
It’s that emotional support and comfort that Gene says gets people talking when they may not have felt comfortable doing so before Dolly.
“The dog actually stirs memories and positive thinking, it gives them someone to talk to, some people may not have had interaction for a while,” she said.