Written by Nelly Carson, with lots of help from Jeanie Carson
Throughout history, my kind has done our very best to prove we’re worthy of being called a Good Boy or a Good Girl. Sure, we don’t have much competition among other house pets – cats have major attitude, turtles lack potty training skills and fish never remember your birthday (or anything for that matter) – but, regardless, dogs like me set out to earn that one, be-all-end-all title.
And, let me tell you, we have some pretty pawsome role models to serve as a benchmark.
Take Balto, for example. He was the lead sled dog on the life-saving journey across Alaska when extreme cold made other modes of transferring much-needed medicine impossible. Have you heard about Sgt. Stubby? He served on the battlefields of WWI, discovering spies and alerting soldiers to oncoming gas attacks. Then, there’s Appollo. He and 350 other search and rescue dogs worked 16 hours a day at Ground Zero to recover survivors of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. These are the very definition of Good Dogs.
A few years ago, I decided I needed to up my Good Dog game. I know they say all dogs go to heaven, but I was looking to officially seal my fate with the big guy (God, not my Dad). My coworkers at our firm and Carson Group already knew I was a top-notch, high-quality pup, and my family literally NEVER stops barking my praises, but I knew I could do more…
Lucky for me, our workplace is all about service. Not only is it our mission to make an impact on the lives of advisors and investors, we also want to make an impact on the world. Our HR department has made sure we have this ability by matching donations up to $500 per year (I have no concept of money, but I hear this is a lot) and allowing stakeholders (I wish this meant they actually held steaks) a full day to volunteer at a charity of our choice.
Because I only get paid in biscuits and bones (what does a girl have to do to get some actual dollars and cents?), it seemed like giving my time was a better plan. I first started visiting patients at Methodist Hospital and at an Alzheimer’s facility with my Mom. The Alzheimer’s facility held a special place in my heart, as my Grandma Rose lived there! It was a tremendously sad day when my Grandma Rose passed away, but I wanted to honor her memory by continuing to visit her friends and wowing them with my amazing tricks. I decided to make my service official, and I still volunteer there today! Yet, I felt I was called to do even more…
Then, one day, I was riding shotgun with my head out the window and ears blowing in the wind, when I spotted a huge hole in the ground. Mom explained it wasn’t a very large, very Bad Dog who dug that hole, but rather a development company who was working on a new building. I hoped it was a treat factory, but she said it was for a Madonna Hospital, a place which specializes in traumatic spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation.
My heart immediately grew 10 times! I knew this was the place for me.
You see, my cousin Travis spent many long months in a facility just like Madonna following a spinal injury he sustained in a construction accident. Travis told me some of the best days he had while in the hospital were those when therapy dogs would come to see him. I didn’t even have to beg my Mom; she was in, and our journey began.
Can you believe as part of our training they put both my mom and I through a series of tests? Well-mannered, polished me! My mom received a manual which was as thick as two dog beds (still waiting on that ultra-plush one Dad…), and she had to study A LOT. She was worried about an “old” human learning new tricks, but I never had a doubt (mostly because I don’t think she’s old at all). Four to five months later (what’s a calendar?), we both passed our tests with flying colors.
The day of my final exam, I had to go to the Madonna Hospital in Lincoln to demonstrate my abilities (not all of them…they frown upon drinking out of the toilet). I had to make sure all of the different hospital equipment and accompanying noises didn’t scare me. Check! I had to show that I could be in the same room as another four-legged friend without running, jumping or acting jealous (this was pre-Gus). That one was in the bag thanks to those other dogs at home (they don’t have jobs, so they don’t get blogs)! Then, for the hardest task of all, I had to make sure I didn’t eat any food off of the floor when it was dropped. That was a true challenge, but I made it through this obstacle by focusing on how great “Nelly Carson, CCO and Good Girl” would look on my business card.
To keep up on this specialty training, I am required to visit Madonna at least two hours a month. I, however, prefer to go much more frequently! Social workers even call to request my presence if a certain patient is missing me or having a particularly rough day.
The very best part about volunteering isn’t earning Good Dog points; it’s inspiring tons of happy tears. Sometimes the patients may be sad and missing their own furry companion, so when I peek my nose through their door, they are instantly overjoyed. I am honored to bring them sunshine on those days when it might be difficult to see past the next 10 minutes.
If I’m being honest, I get just as much out of being a therapy dog as the people at Madonna. Besides belly rubs and lots of attention (imagine me singing “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” a la The Sound of Music), I receive dozens of smiles, which fill me with happiness from the tip of my tail to the boop of my nose. My Dad even comes along once in a while to see me in action, but he tends to be a talker.
You may be wondering how to help your employees achieve work and life balance, how to become more engaged in your community or how you can remain active in retirement. If that’s the case, consider volunteering! There are hundreds of places which could use your time and talents, and you can pick a special non-profit which resonates with you. For me, Grandma Rose and Travis served as my motivation. What is your motivation?
In case you aren’t sure which organization is best for you, I am always happy to let others tag (and wag) along with me. You might not have the same knack as I do in the beginning, but with a few lessons, I’ll have you up and running (off the leash) quite quickly. Whatever you choose, simply find a way to brighten the day of someone else, whether they are on two legs or four.
You can be a Good Human, just like I’m a Good Girl.