Somewhat paralleling her professional work, Molly volunteers at local venues like hospice facilities, inpatient mental health units, funeral homes, camps for grieving children, cancer centers, and skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities. For that work she has a partner: her own dog, Fitzgerald William (5-year-old basset hound and registered therapy dog). Molly recounts one therapy visit she and Fitz made:
“We visited an inpatient drug-rehabilitation residence and sat in on a group-therapy session. The women in the group wanted to see Fitz do a few tricks, and we obliged. When they asked how he had been trained, of course I pulled out the clicker! Together, we taught Fitz the name of someone in the group. The name was his cue to walk to that person and sit in front of her. The group was surprised and impressed and asked many questions, including questions about the science behind clicker training. After an hour of impromptu clicker training, one woman said, ‘I just realized that an hour has gone by and I haven’t stopped smiling and laughing. I thought I had to be high to feel like that.’ I cried all the way home—what an impact Fitzgerald William had on that group.”
Finding human and canine therapy team members can be difficult, but having discussions with people about death and dying can also be taxing. Molly says that she loves her work, however. “I love what I do with all my heart and couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my KPA CTP skills.” In the past, Molly has worked as a volunteer director for a hospice and as the community outreach/grief and bereavement director at a funeral home. Her current business, Canine Comfort, LLC, grew from that experience. “Grief and loss have always felt very comfortable for me. My Dad died when I was 14 and all of my grandparents died over a seven year span before I was 23,” Molly shares.
Working in the sometimes trying and emotional environments where Molly leads her therapy-dog training is difficult, of course. In hospice work, for example, the first challenge is assessing, and then matching, volunteers and therapy dogs. “I spend a lot of time interviewing people about their interest in working as a volunteer at end-of-life. We look for a very specific personality—warm, compassionate, caring, empathetic, an active listener, and, preferably someone who has had personal experience with hospice.” Molly says that when it comes to the dogs, they need “dogs that are exceptionally calm and polite, dogs that have great social skills and a long history of positive socialization.” In sum, “dogs that love people more than life itself.