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June 10, 2010

Wagging Tails Welcome Here

Eleven-year-old Tabby is a regular visitor at Manor Care

Part of an online series profiling staff and friends who volunteer "Off Duty"

  • Kristen Eastman's 11-year old dog, Tabby, loves having a job to do.  Kristen Eastman/The HSUS

  • Kathleen Summers, manager of The HSUS' Puppy Mills campaign, and her dog Brandy visit with a resident at Manor Care. The HSUS rescued Brandy from a puppy mill in Virginia in 2009. Kristen Eastman/The HSUS

  • Kristen Eastman's dog Tabby cuddles with a Manor Care resident. Kristen Eastman/The HSUS

by Liz Bergstrom

Read more Off Duty stories»

Kristen Eastman's 11-year old dog, Tabby, loves having a job to do. Several days a week, Kristen brings Tabby to work with her as part of The Humane Society of the United States' Dogs at Work program. Tabby greets other employees and sometimes sleeps on Kristen's desk.

But even beyond the workweek, Tabby uses her soft fur and friendly personality to put others at ease. When Kristen lived in Texas, Tabby was registered as a "Pet Partners" therapy dog with the Delta Society. Kristen and Tabby visited schools to talk about the importance of compassion for animals and taking good care of your pets.

Tabby also helped children improve their reading skills through a library program encouraging children to read books aloud to dogs. Children who struggle with reading are more likely to relax around a friendly pet and might find it easier to practice reading with a four-legged partner. Dogs care more about a scratch between the ears than perfect pronunciation!

Several days a week, Kristen brings Tabby to work with her as part of The Humane Society of the United States' Dogs at Work program.

Still giving back

Now that Kristen works as a public relations manager with The HSUS near Washington, D.C., she's found a new "job" for Tabby. Once a month, the duo visits residents at Manor Care, an assisted living and rehabilitation facility in Bethesda, Md.

Though walkers and wheelchairs were a change of scene from books and excited kids, Tabby has proven herself just as gentle, calm and affectionate in the new setting. The fluffy Pomeranian brings smiles to the faces of recovering patients and has sat in the lap of many a resident confined to a wheelchair or bed.

In return, Tabby gets lots of attention and the occasional treat, and she seems to enjoy herself.

Its own reward

Recently, several other HSUS staff members and their dogs joined Kristen and Tabby for a visit to Manor Care. The dogs—including a dachshund mix, a Boston terrier rescued from a puppy mill, a mutt from Puerto Rico, and Tabby—were a big hit with the residents.

"Tabby is a 'people' dog," Kristen explains. "When I am old and in a nursing home, I hope someone brings me an animal to hug."

In the meantime, she and Tabby plan to keep giving back through compassion and a wagging tail.

To learn more about volunteering with your pet, contact the Delta Society or local organizations such as Pets on Wheels. These groups may require training and proof of vaccinations to volunteer in hospitals, nursing homes or schools. Kristen recommends first making sure that your pet is outgoing, well-behaved, and calm in unfamiliar situations.

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