Saturday, July 13, 2002

Petting dogs therapeutic for ill and elderly

Hometown hero

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        When people tell Glenna Mockbee she is going to the dogs, she smiles. She's happy they noticed.

        Mrs. Mockbee spends 25 to 30 hours every week bathing her three dogs and hauling them to area hospitals, nursing homes and a hospice for pet therapy sessions. She also gives talks about pet therapy at preschools and libraries.

        The Mount Washington resident has watched in awe as the faces of dangerously ill or wounded children break into smiles when Zoe, her Landseer Newfoundland, works her magic. And she chokes back tears when she sees senior citizens weep for joy as they stroke the fur of her Yorkie, Ellie Mae, or her chocolate Labrador, Blake.

        Mrs. Mockbee volunteered 13 years ago at the now-closed Jewish Hospital and often heard patients say how much they missed their pets.

        So she got permission to bring in her dog, Christian, a hefty, 153-pound Great Pyrenees. She became involved with Therapy Dogs International.

        Nine years ago she began taking Christian to Shriners Hospitals for Children and Cincinnati Childrens' Hospital Medical Center.

        “When I took a dog in for the first time, I saw how much it meant to people,” said Mrs. Mockbee, 56. “If they were in a lot of pain, the dogs took that away for a while ... At Shriners, those youngsters that are burnt so badly 1/2ndash 3/4 how wonderfully they respond to the dogs. The dogs don't give a hoot what they look like. They just like people and like to give love.”

        The dogs must pass rigid tests.

        “You have to be able to pull their tails, press on their paws, mess with their mouths and pull their tongues without them reacting,” Mrs. Mockbee said.

        Louise Hoelker, Shriners director of volunteers and public relations, called Mrs. Mockbee remarkable.

        “She always sees something that made that day a little better for someone. I think that keeps her going. What a wonderful difference she and the dogs make.”

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