About this time last year, Anndevoy Ryan was wondering about activities that she and her dog Fingal could do together, when she spoke with her friend Kathy McNaught.
McNaught and her dog Winnie had worked as a therapy animal volunteer team since 2017 with Human-Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC), a nonprofit center in the School of Social Work at Colorado State University.
HABIC trains volunteer teams in animal-assisted therapies with the purpose of helping to build trust, strengthen relationships, and facilitate the therapeutic process.
New teams receive a placement for a minimum of one year in locations all around Colorado. HABIC teams work with people of all ages in hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, mental health care centers, and many other places.
After considering the idea, Ryan and Fingal decided to jump right in. They attended HABIC team training at Colorado State University last fall. The pair successfully graduated with their certification and began working at Green House Homes at Mirasol in Loveland in 2019.
Today, Ryan and Fingal’s volunteer work is spent visiting one-on-one with residents, offering cheer and friendship. She loves to watch Fingal and the residents just enjoy each other’s company. “Seeing the excitement that people at Green House show when they see him is special for me,” said Ryan.
A people-loving dog right from the start
Fingal is a friendly and enthusiastic English setter, a medium-size breed of dog known for their sweet temperaments. He loves to interact with people, often “talking” with them in his own gentle way.
Ryan brought Fingal home as a puppy because she had always lived with and loved English setters in the past and wanted to continue owning the breed. After a fruitless search for a rescue English setter, she found Fingal among his pudgy littermates.
She certainly found a worthy teammate in Fingal. He loves his visits with the folks at Green House Homes, and the residents love him right back. They smile as they stroke Fingal’s soft white fur and chuckle over his wet nose.
Fingal’s genuine appreciation of the people he serves has made him perfect for his animal-therapy work at Green House Homes. “It thrills me to see people at Green House light up when they see and pet Fingal,” said Ryan. “They love to touch him. I love being part of Fingals’ team.”
Harnessing the power of the human-animal bond
As a HABIC-certified volunteer team, Anndevoy Ryan gives her time and companionship, and Fingal offers clients something rare and special: an interaction that can help to make a new home feel more comfortable and familiar.
When a person moves into a retirement community, it can seem like the world they once knew is happening without them. They don’t get to see animals every day as they might have in the past, so a visit from a friendly, well-trained HABIC animal like Fingal is most welcome.
The reassurance that dog-lovers find in Fingal’s touch can be remarkable. Fingal always makes a longer stop in one man’s room. Ryan says this gentleman “just melts” as Fingal lays his head on the man’s feet. “It’s really important for them to touch another living being.”
Fingal clearly enjoys using his therapy training during these visits, but something else wonderful happens as well. Residents perk up and show enthusiasm for meeting him. Even the staff members smile and ask Ryan to wait for them to get to visit with Fingal before she leaves.
Ryan finds great joy in watching these unforgettable moments between Fingal and the residents of Green House Homes. “It’s so cool to be allowed to see it,” she says. “Their energy seems to rise when Fingal is with them. It’s magical to see.”
Thank you, Anndevoy Ryan and Fingal, for the outstanding work that you do for HABIC and Green House Homes at Mirasol community!
About Human-Animal Bond in Colorado
Founded in 1993, Human-Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC) is a center in the School of Social Work, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences. HABIC’S mission is to improve the quality of life for people of all ages through the therapeutic use of companion animals, with particular focus in the areas of community outreach, teaching, and research.