As a therapy pet for Faithful Paws, Angel is a frequent visitor to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, where she warms, consoles and delights patients with her angelic presence.
Interview (of Trish Herrera, Angel’s owner) by Sara G. Stephens
HFM: Tell us a little about Angel–her age, her home life, and family.
TH: Angel is 6 and a half years old and lives in the Montrose area of Houston. She goes for walks every day and loves to swim. She also loves to watch TV, especially the Animal Planet or anything about puppies.
HFM: Angel had a rough start as a puppy. Can you tell us about her early days?
TH: Angel was born with one eye and three legs. The veterinarian advised her breeder that it would be best to euthanize her, but the breeder chose to save her life. When I got Angel, she was almost 6 weeks old, and she had already learned some hand signals.
HFM: How did Angel find a place as a therapy pet?
TH: I had some clients who had therapy dogs and they were telling me that Angel’s personality was suited for a therapy dog. She received her first certification in obedience at just 4 months old. She began working as a therapy dog when she was 3 years old. She’s certified and registered in the AKC Therapy Dog program. In about a year she’ll reach AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished–the highest level.
HFM: Describe what Angel does as a therapy pet.
TH: Each hospital is a little different because of the different types of patients at each hospital. Sometimes the patient will ask if Angel can come up on the bed or put her paws on the bed.. What she is able to do depends on where we are in the hospital or what types of patients we’re visiting. Even the doctors and nurses in the hallways will stop to visit with Angel and the other therapy pets. Everybody smiles, and that’s the best part.
HFM: How do patients respond to her?
TH: The patients just love her. You can see a person’s demeanor change immediately when Angel enters the room. Sometimes even a person who’s not a dog person will end up with a smile on his face. The patient is happy, their family is happy, and Angel is happy. It’s a win, win, win!
HFM: Mayor Annise Parker officially proclaimed July 21 as “Angel the Therapy Dog Day” in Houston. What prompted that?
TH: Our Mayor loves animals. She’s a cat person, and we have cats in the Faithful Paws program, too. I think the Mayor understands the value of therapy pets. Councilman David Robinson met Angel during a parade and just fell in love with her. Councilman Robinson worked very closely with Mayor Parker to recognize therapy dogs for what they do.
HFM: What are Angel’s favorite things to do when she’s not helping patients?
TH: She loves visiting the beach at Galveston and her godmother’s house in San Antonio because they have a big yard. She loves to swim and visit the multi-service center near her home, where she likes to meet and hang out with people who have special needs or who may be handicapped. She really just loves spending time with people.
HFM: If Angel could speak, what do you think she would say she’s learned in her life?
TH: “This therapy dog gig is really cool and I love every part of it. Don’t let what you think might be a limitation in life keep you from your passion.”