Rocky “The Healer”

Rocky, a ten-year-old wire haired dachshund, has a busy schedule. Depending on the day, he may be cuddling with hospital patients, hanging out with the elderly, or helping kids learn to read. Since 2001, he has volunteered as a therapy dog with Fidos for Freedom, a group based in Prince George’s County that arranges for pets to visit people who are sick or otherwise in need of comfort. Among Rocky’s favorite stops is the Cedar Lane School in Howard County, where he plays with developmentally disabled children and young adults. Most of the students can’t talk. Rocky’s owner, Beth Mittleman, says: “You can see that they’re relating in their body language or in their eye contact.”

On Saturday mornings during the school year, Rocky heads to a library in Cooksville, Maryland, to work with third- and fourth-graders who struggle with reading. The kids are often embarrassed to read aloud, but Rocky doesn’t judge them. He sits still for 45 minutes while they read to him.

Mittleman says Rocky’s best talent is snuggling in hospital beds. She’ll never forget one experience at Holy Cross Hospital when Rocky met a young woman dying of cancer. Though the woman was sedated, her mother said her daughter would want Rocky to sit on her bed. “Rocky lay right next to her, as he always does,” says Mittleman. “Her mother took a whole roll of pictures.”

The woman died that night. Says Mittleman: “What Rocky did for that family was leave a very nice memory.”

Article above courtesy of The Washingtonian Magazine.