Hope is a therapy dog that works with residents at Hawthorne Village and students at Cimino and B.T. Washington Elementary School.

By Franka Potter

Brandon residents and high school sweethearts, Paulette and Robert Speirs, now married for more than 47 years, recently decided to give back to the community through ‘Hope’s Therapy.’

Hope, who is a pointer/hound mix rescue dog that was saved by the Speirs approximately five years ago, has since changed the lives of many residents of the Hawthorne Village Retirement Community and countless elementary school children.

Hope is a certified therapy dog that is registered with ‘Paws for Friendship’ and ‘Paws for Reading.’

Paulette Speirs said, “I believe ‘Hope’s Therapy’ is a calling we received to help people in need.”

Hope has four therapy sessions weekly, every Tuesday, at Hawthorne’s Assisted Living Facilities and Hawthorne’s Nursing Home. There, Hope spends quality time with the residents and she is fed doggy treats.

“From the time Hope walks in, she greets everyone with barks and the resident’s faces just light up. She will lie on their laps or gently sit by their side while they pet her.”, said Paulette.

Linda Kelly, the activities assistant at Hawthorne Village Retirement Community, added that pet therapy has so many physical and mental benefits for Hawthorne’s residents. “Since Hope has been coming to our facility, we have seen tremendous improvements in many of our residents. Everyone waits with anticipation for Tuesdays. Hope is kind, gentle and attentive. She puts a smile on everyone’s faces,” said Kelly.

Students at B.T. Washington Elementary and students from Cimino Elementary get to spend some time reading aloud with Hope and the Speirs. Small groups of children attend these sessions to aid in developing their reading skills.

“The goal of these sessions with the children is simple, it is to build reading confidence and fluency,” according to the Speirs.

Hope sits with the children and attentively listens as the children take turns reading aloud to their furry friend.

For more information about ‘Hope’s Therapy,’ please call Paulette Speirs at 685-1049.