25 Jul, 2018
by Mika Ryan
I had every intention of writing this book during the decade that Hank and I were busy as a pet therapy team. I was continually inspired by his confidence and ability to bring smiles and comfort to everyone we met. However, life just seemed to get in the way and I never put pencil to paper. It wasn’t until Hank passed away in September 2019 that I realized how lucky I was to have been his owner, handler and friend and that it wasn’t too late to share his story.
Through the tears, I’ve done my best to write a fitting tribute to Hank. This book was my effort to convey how he truly enriched the lives of others and shared his gift of love with all he came in contact with, both human and canine.
I also wanted to provide a glimpse of the road that Hank and I traveled to become a certified pet therapy team. Often, I would hear from owners that their dog would make a wonderful therapy dog because they were so friendly. A friendly disposition is only a small part of what makes a successful therapy dog
This book was written through Hank’s eyes so the young reader might gain a small appreciation for the multi-faceted skills required of him as well as what was required of his Mom (the author!).
To adult readers who may be sharing this book with their children or their students, I hope I have conveyed that Hank had to be comfortable in any setting… hospitals, assisted living homes, hospice, schools and libraries. I didn’t realize how noisy hospitals were until we walked the halls visiting patients!
As his handler, I had to pass a test that insured I understood the nuances of every population we would visit… children, hospice patients, cancer patients or Alzheimer and dementia units where rough petting and bear hugs for Hank were the norm. Not once did Hank ever squirm or try to Jump off the lap of a patient who squeezed too tight. He was always steady and calm.
Finally, this book was both a joy to write and cathartic to write as I miss Hank every day. I trust my readers will fall in love with him as did so many people who shared his inspiring journey.