Posted by Karen Newhall | 13/09/2019
When it comes to pets, Research Scientist Karen Newhall is most definitely a dog person...
I’ve made lifestyle changes, career decisions and friendship choices because of ‘man’s best friend’.
My dogs are both much-loved family pets and working dogs, so they play an essential role in the running of my sheep farm and business, which introduces pet herding dogs to sheep.
But what often surprised me was the impact my pets had on improving my quality of life and the lives of those around me.
That’s why I was inspired to join the Pet Partners Therapy Team with my Border Collies Nellie and Ruby in 2013. Not only was Nellie able to come to work with me – joining meetings and making friends with co-workers – we also started visiting patients at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
It feels magical seeing a child smile or laugh for the first time since being hospitalised when my dog jumps in their bed, gives them a hug or performs a trick. The dogs encourage children who are unwell to interact, despite their physical discomfort, and they give staff an emotional release after a long shift.
My dogs have the ability to turn tears into smiles, start a conversation, and introduce people to the powerful bond that exists between humans and animals.
Sadly, last year Nellie died from cancer. It was only when I heard people’s reactions that I realised just how much of an impact she’d had on them. I wanted to continue her work, and launched a charity foundation in her name – The Nellie Effect.
This organisation provides grants to pet owners to cover the cost of cancer care and reimburses fees associated with becoming a registered Pet Partners therapy animal to encourage more owners to register their animals as therapy pets.
I still volunteer with Ruby and I now also have two puppies (one is Nellie’s niece) who are also training to become therapy dogs.
Although it was difficult returning to work without Nellie, pet therapy is a way for me to give back to my community and support Elanco’s Healthy Purpose™. Even if it is only for a moment, my dogs make an important difference in someone’s day.