How Dogs Make Our Lives Better

By Susan Baldani

Kristen Finch and Smash

Smash pic

What is your background?
I’ve been the Senior Manager of Community Relations with the Nashville Predators for eight years. I really wanted a dog, but with my crazy schedule it was hard to have one. When I found out we could have a team dog that I could bring to the office every day, it was perfect.

Tell me about your team dog.
We adopted Lord Banner of Smashville, or Smash, from Keely’s Friends Dog Rescue when he was 2 to 3 months old; he’s now about 9 months. We have no idea what breed he is; he’s a true mutt.

What are the benefits of having a team dog?
Smash has really brought the mood of the organization up. He visits different departments, and if people are having a bad day, they stop by to give him hugs and kisses. He also visits the team in the locker room and helps relieves stress and anxiety.

In addition, Smash is involved with Weber’s Woof Pack, our fan club for dogs. For $30, your dog gets a Woof Pack collar and leash, a dog tag, a dog bowl and invitations to exclusive dog-park meet-ups throughout the city, where Smash likes to play. All proceeds go to the Nashville Humane Association.

Jamie Popwell and Sona Jean

Sona Jean 1

What is your background?
I joined the Marines in 1982 and served most of my six years at Camp David. When I came out, I became a police officer and then in January of 1999 took a job as a contractor overseas. During that period, I spent time doing security in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

In 2015, I came home for good, but after about 9 months, I started to exhibit signs of PTSD – anxiety, stress, and anger – which could be set off by certain sounds, smells, and sights. My wife, Dina, convinced me I needed to get help and came up with the idea to get a service dog.

Tell me about your service dog.
Sona Jean is a 4-year-old English Lab. She came into my life on Mother’s Day weekend of 2018. Since then, we’ve only been apart for three days. She sleeps with me, goes to work with me, and travels everywhere with me.

What are the benefits of having a service dog?
Sona knows when I’m having a bad day and is able to distract me. It may be by nudging my hand, jumping in my lap, or sticking her nose in my ear from the back seat while I’m driving. She brings me back to reality and gives me peace of mind. I love her unconditionally and I don’t know where I would be without her.

Elizabeth Treadwell and Bogey

Bogey 2

What is your background?
I was born and raised in Michigan, lived in Chicago, and then moved to Nashville 4 ½ years ago to obtain my MBA. I live with my fiancée and two dogs, and work for Mars Pet Care in Coral Springs.

I was always taught to help others whenever possible. Since I love animals and volunteering, having a pet therapy dog is a perfect fit.

Tell me about your therapy dog.
Bogey is a 7-year-old, 100-pound yellow Labrador I adopted from a shelter. He was about 12 weeks old and just so laid-back.
Remembering how much joy my grandfather got when a dog would visit him in the hospital, I decided to get Bogey, at age 2, certified as a hospital therapy dog. Unfortunately, he failed twice because he just couldn’t ignore the food plates passing by.

He was able to pass another exam to work with kids in the Chicago Public Schools system. They would read to him and Bogey loved it; he would hang out with his belly up in the air.

After moving to Nashville, Bogey, at age 5 ½, finally passed the test to be certified as a hospital therapy dog. We were then told that the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt was looking for volunteers, so now Bogey and I visit every other Tuesday morning.

What are the benefits of a therapy dog?
When the kids see Bogey, their whole demeanors change because they can focus on him rather than what they’re actually there for. The kids in rehab don’t even realize they’re still doing their therapy work by walking and petting him.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle magazine in Franklin, Tennessee.

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