Thursday, September 13, 2012
By Langley Cornwell
Stacey Mae is a beloved therapy dog in Canon City, Colorado. With over 19,000 Facebook fans, this Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s good deeds span the globe. Some of us at the CANIDAE Responsible Pet Ownership Blog wanted to know more about this four-legged angel.
I had the opportunity to interview Stacey Mae. With a motto like Never Give Up, Never Back Down, Never Lose Faith, you get a sense of the dog and her guardian’s character. Throughout the process, however, I was only granted access to Stacey Mae herself. Apparently her guardian wants all of the credit and acclaim to go to Stacey Mae. Maybe that’s another peek behind the curtain?
What made your family get involved in canine nursing home therapy?
My family had another Greater Swiss Mountain dog named Gracie who visited nursing homes for several years. They wanted to do something nice for the elderly and knew that people in nursing homes really like dogs. Gracie was mellow and loved people, so my family thought it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, the nursing home where Gracie visited closed down. When that happened, my family stopped going. Then Gracie crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2008.
Once Gracie passed away, my family thought I would do a good job visiting homes since I am so relaxed. I don’t lick, and just like to spend time with people. I’m fine if people want to pet me and if they don't, I’ll just lay down near them to keep them company in their final days, months or years.
How old were you when you started?
Just a little over a year old.
What do you most like about being a therapy dog?
The people; I’ve met wonderful people at the nursing home, and I can tell I’m helping. Even though it is hard to say goodbye, knowing I helped make their time better is worth it.
Then you wanted to do more?
Yes. After about 2 years of simply visiting the elderly, we wanted to do something more. So in October of 2010 we launched the Teddy Bear Project.
What is the Teddy Bear Project?
We collect stuffed animals and distribute them to people we visit. We’re the original stuffed animal program benefiting elders in nursing homes and kids in hospitals.
The Teddy Bear Project is a wonderful idea. How did you come up with it?
We wanted to do something for the nice people in the nursing homes during the Christmas Holidays but didn't know what. After thinking about it for a while, we thought of a stuffed animal collection.
How far is your reach?
We collect stuffed animals from all around the world including places like Australia, United Kingdom, Iceland, Canada, Philippines, and all over Europe and the U.S.
How is the Teddy Bear Project going?
In the first year of the project we collected thousands of stuffed animals for the elderly and kids in the hospital. Every year, we get bigger and bigger. I love to make people feel loved.
That is the conclusion of my official interview, but I wanted to know more. I’ve interviewed other celebrity pets but in every case I’ve ended up interacting with the human. Not this time; all of my communications were with Stacey Mae. So I strapped on my reporter shoes (not really) and dug a little deeper. Here’s what I discovered:
The Teddy Bear Project started in 2010 when 18 year old Maria Mandel wanted to do something nice for the elderly in nursing homes. As Stacey Mae told me, Maria spent time thinking of options and came up with the Teddy Bear Project idea. She solicited her friend’s opinions and they thought it was a great idea. So she posted the idea on Facebook and got flooded with support. Within the first year, over 16,000 people joined her Facebook Page and she collected 3,000 stuffed animals and 130 blankets. It’s amazing what a teenager and a dog can accomplish!
If you’re interested in learning more about the Teddy Bear Project or Stacey Mae, visit her Facebook page.
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell