Robert and Paulette Speirs and their pooch, Hope, put smiles on people’s faces at local schools and assisted living facilities.

Hope, a 9-year-old pointer hound mix, led a busy life prior to COVID-19. From working with children who were learning to read to visiting seniors in assisted living, Hope and her owners, Robert and Paulette Speirs, operated together as a team to improve the lives of other people.

They visited Hawthorne Assisted Living every Tuesday and visited local schools, including BT Washington Elementary in Tampa, a couple times a week.

“Hope would walk around and let the assisted living residents pet her,” said Paulette. “If they were singing, Hope would howl along with them and make them laugh.”

Then COVID happened and the visits stopped, but the couple still found a way to share their well-behaved pooch with others: they used Zoom to continue their visits online, but less frequently.

That changed last month when they were able to resume their visits to schools.

“We’ve missed it so much and are glad to continue what we love,” said Paulette.

Hope was registered as a therapy pet through Paws for Friendship, an organization that certifies and registers pets and their owners to visit nursing homes, hospitals and schools.

Hope didn’t need much training. She already had basic obedience skills and was a healthy and well-socialized pet with a good disposition.

“When we adopted her when she was 3-years-old, she was already trained and well-mannered,” said Paulette. “The evaluation process was pretty quick and painless.”

The Speirses pay a $60 annual membership fee and are required to visit a facility of their choice at least once a month.

While Hope has proved a blessing in their lives, it was divine providence that brought her into their lives.

“My husband and I had decided we were through with owning dogs because we had just lost a boxer we had owned for 12 years,” said Paulette.

A coworker who was a foster pet owner told her about Hope, her current foster pet, and said she had to meet her.

“My husband joked with me and said he’d only meet her if she was ceramic and could hold a television remote control,” she said. “Everywhere we went, we kept seeing signs that said ‘hope’ and finally, after following a Metropolitan Ministries truck that had ‘hope’ written in big letters across it and hearing our minister teach a lesson about hope, I knew someone was trying to tell us something.”

The Speirses took her for the weekend six years ago.

“We are thankful for her and Paws for Friendship and being able to do what we do,” said Paulette.

For more information about Paws for Friendship, visit

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.