Meet Patti, the current housemother in the Smith Home. She just got a new puppy, a 6 month old Brussels Griffon, Angel, who she is training to become a registered therapy dog, a certified Canine Good Citizen, and an overall good family pet. Angel is a loving, energetic puppy who loves to play and do tricks. Although Angel is currently in training, she has already made three visits to the nearby nursing homes with plans to make many more visits in the future.

“Animals bring a lot of comfort and unconditional love to hurting people,” says Patti, “and because of that, they make great tools for therapy.” Animals are instrumental in helping our guys understand what unconditional love is. Angel is no match for the students who come to Rawhide. Patti smiles, “Even the toughest guy that comes here melts when they meet Angel.” Dogs express their love to everyone they meet, they do not discriminate or ask about your past; they love unconditionally no matter what. “This why animal therapy is so effective,” Patti continued, “Walking a dog on a leash around Rawhide is a one way that can be used to calm a guy down or to help him open up.”

When Angel turns one year old she will be certified as a therapy dog and then will be able to visit local nursing homes, hospitals, retirement homes and hospice centers. To complete her therapy dog certification, Angel needs to pass 10 different exercises. Due to Patti’s limited schedule as a housemother, she has hired a trainer that is able to come to Rawhide to help her and Angel accomplish their goals.

Patti said that the reason she wanted a dog in the first place because she wanted to help the students here and the people in the surrounding communities. One day she hopes that someone will return the favor to her, when she is in need or hurting, by visiting her with a therapy animal.

Patti has been active in the animal therapy program for about four years and has had other therapy dogs, such as Brandi Sue, also a Brussels Griffon who passed away in 2012. Brandi Sue was a registered therapy dog for about two years. Patti and Brandi Sue made frequent visits to nursing homes, hospice centers, and schools to comfort those in need in Northeast Wisconsin.

Brandi Sue’s passing was very hard on Patti and those in the community who came to know and love her. Angel has some large paws to fill, but with her bubbly, loving personally and her willingness to please, she is up to the challenge!

Angel’s role as a registered therapy dog, a certified Canine Good Citizen and a Rawhide family pet will impact many lives both at Rawhide and in the surrounding communities. Dogs express their love to everyone they meet, they do not discriminate, or ask you about your past, because they are more concerned about how much love they are showing you. We are very blessed to have such a generous housemother and therapy dog helping the guys at Rawhide and giving back to the local community.