Kathy Reynolds can’t help but share her goldendoodle with strangers — all over Cortland and even into Syracuse — taking Sadie the dog into nursing homes, schools and hospitals as a volunteer for PAWS of Central New York.
“I do it primarily because Sadie is amazing. I need to share her,” said the Cortlandville woman. “It’s very rewarding to me, to see the response to her.”
Reynolds, a retired special education administrator in the Cortland School District, was visiting Cortland Park Rehabilitation and Nursing on Kennedy Parkway Dec. 19 with Sadie, a big, gentle animal with soft curly white fur. Sadie was an instant hit.
Help out Paws of CNY
If you have a tame, sociable pet, consider sharing him or her with others. PAWS of CNY is looking for teams to brighten others’ day. Here’s how:
— Complete a volunteer application and submit health and vaccine records for the pet.
— Pass an initial evaluation.
— Be assigned to a nursing home and complete facility evaluation over a few months.
— Once that’s successful, you have a pet therapy certification.
— Visit pawsofcny.org to apply.
— PAWS of CNY
“Our dogs go everywhere: airports, schools, nursing homes, hospitals, the Upstate pediatric center. I go to all the nursing homes in Cortland and the group home in Homer,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds does about six visits a month.
“It could be more or less,” she said.
PAWS of Central New York is a nonprofit, volunteer run organization that pairs up loving dogs and cats and their owners with people in need of comfort by visits.
They are not service dogs for people with disabilities. Nor are they emotional support animals that provide emotional support to their owners on a daily basis.
Paws of CNY works with volunteers from the public to get reliable pets into places where they can give comfort to strangers.
The organization was established in 1998 and has over 100 volunteers providing 1,000 visits a month in the five-county region.
And Reynolds and Sadie are the only certified team in Cortland County.
“We need volunteers,” Reynolds said. Not only in Cortland County but Cayuga County as well.
Carol Hopkins, a resident at Cortland Park, oohed and aaahed over Sadie, as a group of 32 gathered in the nursing home’s activity room to enjoy her company.
“This is beautiful,” Hopkins. “She certainly loves everybody. She is sweet and loving.”
“Usually I had cats. They used to call me the cat lady,” Hopkins said.
“We had all kinds of animals, dogs and cats and even a bird,” said Phyllis Hauck, another resident at Cortland Park. “I love it,” she said of Sadie’s visit.
“It just makes you feel happy,” Hopkins said.
Paws of CNY requires health and vaccine records for the animals involved, evaluates the owner and animal in a nursing home and gives the team a certification from there.
“I’ve been doing this about four years,” Reynolds told patients and staff in the rehabilitation room. “We recertify for the second time in February. We get recertified every two years,” she said.
“We are looking for a good pet/handler team where the pet has some basic obedience skills, is able to occupy the same space as other pet teams and most importantly, loves meeting new people,” said Amy Dumas of Oswego, president of PAWS of CNY.
“In a handler we are looking for individuals that want to engage with the public and has good basic dog/cat handling skills,” Dumas said.
Dumas has been part of Paws of CNY for 14 years.
She encourages people to go online and visit pawsofcny.org.
Volunteer teams work in Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Madison and Cayuga counties, Dumas said.
“We have a volunteer board of directors that is a working board: we run the organization. We have several other volunteers that provided some administrative support as well. And most importantly, our teams are out in the community every day making people smile,” Dumas wrote in an email.
“If you are on the fence about whether this is something you should do — give it a try— after 14 years I still look forward to each and every visit,” Dumas said.
Sierra Hubbard, activity director at Cortland Park, reached out to Paws of CNY and asked for a team to visit there.
“Kathy was very receptive,” Hubbard said. “We set up a visit the following month. We have been having visits four months now. … It makes the biggest difference in the world. Someone can be having the worst day, or is agitated … it flips their day around. It brings a piece of home here.”
Cortland Park has a rabbit that residents can pet, but the animal does not like to be held.
“We bought companion pets, robot dogs and cats,” Hubbard said. The stuffed animals make pet noises and wiggle and some residents don’t realize they are fake.
They, too, can turn a resident’s day around.
Reynolds said the goldendoodle has all the best parts of a poodle and golden retriever.
“She’s really smart, from the poodle, and doesn’t shed, and is very goofy and loving like a golden retriever.”
Reynolds said the first visit she made with her dog was at Walden Place, where there was a person who was non verbal.
“She was not talking to anyone, not looking at anyone. After a few visits, Sadie made her laugh! It just makes people feel good.”