Kevin the Therapy Dog: How an Ordinary Mutt Changed a Community
Kristine Thomas was a dog lover at heart. She was particularly fond of shelter dogs--of mutts--for their adoring nature and eagerness to learn. Plus, she was conscious of the unfair stigma of shelter dogs being too “problematic.”
Our story begins in February 2008, when Kristine’s furry companion crossed the Rainbow Bridge, leaving behind a mutt-shaped hole in her heart. She instantly thought of BARCS and knew we would have a new friend for her. When she visited our shelter, we had just the dog in mind!
The first time Kristine met Kevin, he was 15 pounds of pure puppy energy; he bounced all over the meeting room like a fiery pinball. Although some potential adopters might have been overwhelmed by the puppy, Kristine knew right away that Kevin was the dog for her. On Valentine’s Day in 2008, Kristine adopted Kevin into her home and heart.
Dog Scouting and Becoming a Therapy Dog
Neither Kristine nor Kevin were content to sit around at home all day. Kristine quickly recognized that, despite his energy, Kevin had a good disposition, and he was curious and eager to learn. So, she signed Kevin up for obedience classes--and he hasn’t stopped learning since.
In addition to obedience training, Kristine registered Kevin for the Dog Scouts of America to follow in her last dog’s paw prints. The Dog Scouts’ mission is to “improve the lives of dogs, their owners, and society through humane education, positive training, and community involvement.” Much like its human counterpart, scouts can earn merit badges such as community service and therapy work.
Despite her extensive experience raising and training dogs, Kristine had never pursued therapy work. However, an accident in March 2013 changed her mind. Kristine was at a dog park when a hyper dog collided into her, breaking her leg. After surgery, Kristine was placed in a residential rehabilitation center, where she was desperately missing Kevin. While she was recovering, Pets on Wheels visited with their therapy dogs. The experience brought her such unbridled joy that she vowed to bring the same happiness into other people's’ lives.
To earn the initial therapy dog badge through Dog Scouts, Kevin only needed 10 volunteer hours; he now has over 1,400. In fact, Kevin was so well mannered and receptive to the training that he ended up becoming certified through both Therapy Dogs International and Karma Dogs. Also impressive: Kevin is only one of two dogs in Dog Scouts in Maryland and has earned the highest rank of Honor Scout.
Kevin in the Community
As a therapy dog, Kevin has touched the lives of uncountable people, traveling thousands of miles around the Mid Atlantic states. Let’s take a look at a few of his most favorite visits.
Ronald McDonald House
One memorable visit to the Ronald McDonald house involved a young girl from the Kennedy Krieger Institute who was struggling with physical therapy after brain surgery. Though she typically struggled to work with her right side, she was petting Kevin using her right hand--something her mother deeply appreciated.
Reading can be challenging, so Kevin loves to frequent libraries to help young readers. One young boy first started reading to Kevin in 2014. At first, he spent more time petting Kevin than reading. But he soon began practising chapters at home so he could impress Kevin with his improvement. Now, he enjoys reading chapter books on his own.
Following the horrific fire that claimed the lives of six children, Kevin began visiting the City Neighbors Charter School weekly where most of the children attended. Kevin was a much needed distraction for the grief-stricken students. His presence was so welcome that teachers even began working Kevin into their lesson plans.
In addition, this school and other neighborhood schools issued an oath of kindness to students in first through third grades. The oath is a pledge to be kind to and never hurt an animal. Kevin made the oaths official by “pawtographing” them--placing his paw print as a witness.
Just a Normal Dog
When he’s not changing lives, Kevin is just a normal dog. He loves to play fetch, go swimming in the Chesapeake Bay and hiking. After a busy day, he curls up on the couch next to Kristine and naps happily.
As you can tell from the stories above, it’s no secret that Kevin has changed so many lives for the better. The person he’s affected the most, though, is his owner, Kristine. She told us, “I am so proud of Kevin. He is such a joy to be around. I recently had my 70th birthday, and Kevin is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. He gives my life purpose.”
That’s one good boy.
Kevin’s story proves that second chances are worth giving. At BARCS, we provide more than 250 pets with food, care, and love in our shelter at any given time. We work with every animal’s unique needs to find them the best possible outcome--the best possible home. But we can’t do that without your help.
- $10 feeds a pet for a week
- $25 provides vaccine/flea treatments for one animal
- $50 tests five stray animals for dangerous, life threatening diseases
- $100 provides nutrition for a litter of motherless kittens
Donate today and make a difference in the life of a homeless animal.