“Quintessential HABIC dog” takes her job as a therapy animal seriously

Summer, a Golden Retriever, loves to give comfort to others and immediately encourages people to pet her when she’s working as a therapy dog, said her owner and handler, Theresa Boyle. “From the start, Summer has been lovable, mellow, and loyal.”

She is known as “the quintessential HABIC dog” by staff members of Human-Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC) in Colorado State University’s School of Social Work, where Summer and Boyle volunteer.

“For therapy work, Summer immediately gets excited as soon as I put on her HABIC bandana because she knows she will get lots of petting,” said Boyle. “Only problem is when she gets home again, she doesn’t think the petting should stop!”

colorado state university school of social work human-animal bond in colorado center volunteer therapy dog
colorado state university school of social work human animal bond in colorado
Human-Animal Bond in Colorado volunteer therapy animal team Theresa Boyle and Summer.

Summer and Boyle were one of several volunteer therapy dog teams working through the organization’s 12-week certification process during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We were just about to be certified when everything shut down due to Covid,” said Boyle. “We waited patiently, and sometimes impatiently, until it was safe to get together again to certify our HABIC dogs. We were certified on Oct 15, 2020.”

As a nonprofit center at CSU, the mission of Human-Animal Bond in Colorado is to improve the quality of life for people of all ages through the therapeutic use of companion animals, with focus in the areas of community outreach, teaching, and research.

Boyle’s co-worker introduced her to HABIC. “I was excited that there was a therapy dog organization right in town, and it was just an easy fit with other like-minded people and dogs. It is always great to be around others who enjoy sharing love and comfort.”

Therapy dogs provide animal-assisted interventions at community service centers such as rehabilitation facilties, hospitals, and schools. “Summer and Theresa took to HABIC work right away,” said Kate Miller, HABIC’s animal trainer and volunteer coordinator.

“Summer is calm, loving, and always seeking more attention,” Miller said. “She is a joy at any event and has met adults, children, teens, and everyone in between.”

colorado state university school of social work human animal bond in colorado

Boyle knew she wanted to work with a therapy dog after she retired and had been looking for a partner. “I adopted Summertime Sunsation as a retired breeder when she was 7 years old. It was love at first sight as soon as she walked into the room. Summer was the perfect fit for our family, and to partner with me at HABIC to give comfort to others in need throughout our community.”

“Summer just has a way with people and immediately gets them to want to pet her,” Boyle said. “As a breeder, she had three litters of puppies. I spayed her right away and our family proceeded to teach her how to be a spoiled family pet.”

“My husband had to carry her up the stairs twice before she figured out how to navigate a staircase, and we had to cover the lower part of our glass patio door so that she would stop running into it. However, learning that the couch makes a great bed was incredibly fast,” said Boyle.

Summer often goes camping and hiking with her active and outdoorsy family. “She is a welcome guest where ever we go,” said Boyle. “Water and swimming are not her favorites so she just watches from the shore, however canoeing is just fine with Summer as long as she gets the front seat.”

colorado state university school of social work human animal bond in colorado
colorado state university school of social work human animal bond in colorado

But Boyle says Summer still prefers “a good petting” over a game of fetch. Summer seems to also have her own interests, including her important role as the quintessential HABIC dog.

“Whether it is a stressed college student, high school students learning what therapy dogs can do, elementary students learning new behaviors, medical care workers that need to separate from their work for a moment, or elders that just want a warm head to touch and connect with, all are important roles and ones that our dogs can fulfill so easily and lovingly,” said Boyle.

“Whenever I see how much others enjoy petting her, I know we are giving love to the community and that brings me such joy,” Boyle said. “Summer is in her element around people and I only hope that she brings others as much joy and comfort as I get from her.”