With one eye blue and one eye brown, Celt, a 5 year old rough coat border collie, views the world in a most affectionate manner.
Celt and his owner-handler, Jim DiNoto are a Pet Therapy Team volunteering with Therapeutic Paws of Canada at the Rouge Valley-Ajax hospital. Full of anticipation and ready for work in his bright red vest, Celt arrives, jumping out of the jeep. Jim follows as Celt leads the way: front entrance, sliding doors, elevator. No time to waste, there’s work to be done… and border collies love to work. In fact, Jim’s sure if Celt could reach the second floor button, he’d press it so they could get there sooner.
As they move from room to room, Jim does the introductions and Celt is “on”. Visitors, patients and staff all give him a pat, a chat, and most times, a hug. Smiles, thank you’s, and the “you made my day’s” are their rewards.
When they finish on the floor, the Therapy Team heads to the elevators and down to the marketing office where they have an open invitation (and a request) to stop by. Not only does Celt get another smile and hug there, but also a doggy treat that’s kept just for him.
One day, when Celt and Jim visited the office, a woman asked whether Celt is a therapy dog because her daughter was in the hospital and desperately wanted a visit with a therapy dog. With that, the staff person pulled out a plush sheep to assist Celt and Jim on their special visit to see the girl. “How appropriate,” Jim mused. “A sheep and a border collie.” When they entered the girl’s room, she lit up and tears of joy streamed down her cheeks. On subsequent visits, people from other rooms asked if Celt could see their loved ones, too. As Jim says, it’s “infectious happiness” -- the only type of infection you want to see in a hospital.
Celt and Jim visited on Christmas Eve with bells jingling on Celt’s collar and little gifts topped with a photo of Celt in his Santa suit and signed, “Merry Christmas, Love Celt”. A few months later, when the two were back on the floor, a visitor asked if Celt was the dog that visited on Christmas. The man had heard about Celt through his sister -- a nurse in the hospital. In another room, a man showed Jim a collection of photos on his wall. There, with photos of his grandchildren, was the Christmas photo of Celt. He was so happy to meet Celt again they shared a muffin – sort of reverse giving.
Jim has found what the human half of a Pet Therapy Team finds: each visit, every day with his partner dog, brings him new stories of joy. “This is a journey,” Jim says. “An experience through the lives of many that always gives back.”