Person You Should Know: Sandie Young
Story and photo by Robert Whitmire
This young man stands about a foot at the shoulder, enters a room with enthusiasm and unlimited energy, loves to hear everyone’s stories and is quite the snuggler with a waggly tail that just won’t quit. His name is Bentley; he is a five year old West Highland Terrier – aka Westie – and besides being a devoted family pet he moonlights as a Therapy dog. The human half of the team is Sandie Young, retired Counselor at the Stevens Point Area Senior High School.
Bentley and Sandie have been involved with Therapy Dogs International for the past four years. TDI is a volunteer group that was started in 1976. The group seeks to provide handlers and their therapy dogs for visits to schools, libraries, hospitals and nursing homes; just about any place that requests a visit. Studies have shown that interaction with therapy dogs provide affection, comfort, stress relief, and positive feelings about themselves to people of all ages. They have been associated with lowered blood pressure and general feelings of happiness and contentment in people who are visited by therapy dogs.
“Bentley LOVES working and coming to SPASH, “observes Sandie. “He has an array of special collars- ones with bow ties and ones for special occasions. When I put one on him, he knows he is going to visit and he gets super excited. In fact, when I leave the house without him, he is sad.”
There are several requirements that Bentley must meet in order to be a therapy dog. Tests range from basic obedience commands to being comfortable in medical settings and around wheelchairs and walkers. In addition, temperament is evaluated. Any breed, purebred or mixed can become a certified therapy dog if they have what it takes to pass the battery of 10 different tests. “Many rescue dogs become good therapy dogs,” noted Sandie.
Bentley and Sandie count St. Joseph Hospital in Marshfield, various nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Stevens Point and Wausau among their visits and present lessons together at some churches in the area. He is also the Official therapy dog for First Choice Pregnancy Resource Center in Stevens Point.
“Actually, coming to SPASH was a collaborative idea between me and Val Fetting – SPASH Counseling Office Chair. I did a long term sub job for them last year and during that time I saw some students who loved dogs. I thought they would benefit from having a therapy dog available so I asked SPASH Principal Mike Devine, got permission and started visiting,” recalls Sandie.
“The entire office looks forward to Bentley’s visits,” said Fetting. We notice a real and positive response from the students who spend time with Bentley. They just love to see and spend some quality time with him.”
“Bentley seems to have a sense about how to interact with people. He is usually very attached to me but when we are visiting people, he always goes away from me and sits with them. He settles down and is very calm with them. He will lay by them, cuddle up against them, and just let them touch him. He’s a great therapy dog.”
Bentley and Sandie are a dog and a person you should know.