Petfinder alum teaches kids about pet therapy


As the marketing manager for Petfinder, I work out of the New York office of Animal Planet, where staffers volunteer every week to read with local elementary schoolers.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for gwin and kids.JPGTo celebrate the end of the school year, some of those students came to the offices on Friday, where they were treated to a presentation about pet care by Petfinder’s public relations coordinator, Cary Moran.

Next, they got to met a real live Petfinder alum, Gwin. A 2-year-old corgi/sheltie mix, Gwin was adopted by Monica Hirsch and her daughter, Nora, from the Mercer County Humane Society in Princeton, WV — and she’s more than just a perfect pet, she’s a certified therapy dog!

Two years ago, Monica Hirsch was looking for a dog with her daughter Nora, now 13. Nora desperately wanted a corgi, and Monica felt strongly that they should rescue a homeless dog. Petfinder, of course, was the answer! Monica says she searched “obsessively” for just the right dog, and when she saw a 6-month-old corgi-sheltie mix at an open-access shelter in West Virginia, she had a feeling she’d found “the one.”

But she and Nora had no way of picking up the little dog, who didn’t even have a name. Luckily, she found an adopter in New Jersey who was driving to West Virginia to pick up another dog that had also been pulled from the open-access shelter by the Mercer County Humane Society and who agreed to drive their dog, whom they’d dubbed Gwin, back to New Jersey.

Monica and Nora took the train from their Manhattan home to New Jersey and collected Gwin, who rode back with them in Nora’s backpack. About a year later, Gwin was accepted into the Good Dog Foundation’s therapy-dog training program. Gwin graduated with honors from the eight-week course, and now provides therapy to residents of three Manhattan assisted-living residences for seniors.

Gwin provides therapy with her serene, calming presence and infinite patience — qualities very much appreciated by the elementary school students from the Everybody Wins Foundation’s reading program, who met Nora and Gwin on June 6. When Gwin visits with senior citizens, she’ll sit by their feet or on their laps as they pet her, and often tell Monica and Nora about their own pets. “Pet therapy is a real team effort,” Monica says. “Human and dog.”