“I have four kids, but they are all grown and out of the house now, so I traded four kids for four dogs!” said David Wilson, volunteer at Chelsea Retirement Community (CRC) and volunteer at Therapaws of Michigan Inc.
Therapaws of Michigan Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that promotes and fosters the human-animal bond, both in therapeutic and educational settings.
David and his three goldendoodles—McCoy, Sophie, and Tulip—visit and bring smiles to residents at Towsley Village Memory Care Center. Together, they volunteer at five different organizations for 12-14 hours a week. David and his canine team have been members of Therapaws for three years and have volunteered at Towsley Village for one year.
“People’s eyes light up when they see the dogs, and the dogs respond to this energy,” David said. “That’s why I love bringing them to see people; it gives me joy to see them smile.”
Everyone at Towsley Village—residents and staff—have come to love Tuesday and Thursday mornings, when they see David come through the doors with one of his three fluffy, playful goldendoodles. If residents want to see the dogs, they leave their door open as a sign to David and his team that they are ready for a visit.
“It’s very important that the residents offer the invitation to the dogs,” David said. “When the resident’s smile, it’s a signal to the dogs that they are welcome.”
McCoy, Sophie, and Tulip are all certified therapy dogs who have gone through rigorous training courses at Therapaws. The dogs have visited schools, cancer centers, hospitals, rehabilitation centers—even birthday parties! The locations may be different, but the goal is the same: to bring joy and comfort to people in every life situation.
Their journey to Towsley Village began with a simple birthday invitation from Oregon. A woman from Oregon emailed David, asking he come with one of his dogs to visit her dad for his birthday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Though David didn’t usually do house calls, he decided to make an exception.
“I’ve done a lot of great things in my life, but I have never surprised a man for his 90th birthday,” David said.
This man loved 6-year-old McCoy, and his daughter later told David it was “the best thing in the world for him.” Due to a fall and ongoing memory lapses, a few months later this man moved to Towsley Village Memory Care Center at CRC. Once David heard this, he knew he had to visit him.
“The transition for this gentleman had been hard—his daughter said he’d been agitated and upset,” David said. “But the minute he saw McCoy come into the room, his eyes lit up, he smiled really big, and he was at peace.”
David and McCoy visited this gentleman every week to cheer him up and bring him joy. A little while later, this man passed away and David attended his funeral. After being touched by the positive impact dog therapy had on this senior’s life, David knew he wanted to continue bringing the dogs to visit residents at Towsley Village.
“It’s an opportunity to serve and give back,” David said. “I know it’s part of a master plan for our life.”
David and one of his three gorgeous goldendoodles visit twice a week at Towsley Village in Chelsea, and visit twice a month at Huron Valley PACE in Ypsilanti—putting smiles on people’s faces and bringing peace.
“Being with these dogs can bring back positive memories of growing up with a dog,” David said. “The dogs are accepting of all and show unconditional love to everyone.”