Best friend makes volunteer work more rewarding

As an elementary school teacher, Cathy Daly helped hundreds of children become better readers. It wasn't until retirement that she began doing it with the help of a dog.

Daly's dog Bogey is an 11-year-old cavapoo - a combination of a cavalier King Charles spaniel and a poodle - who has been a working therapy dog for nearly six years. Helping children to read is just one of many ways Bogey is able to help people, Daly said.

Bogey joined the Daly family as a puppy, but it wasn't until several years later that Daly learned of the Hinsdale Humane Society's Therapaws program and began considering Bogey for the life of a therapy dog.

"When he turned 5 his personality just came into full bloom," she said.

Bogey is calm, obedient and friendly - all the qualities required of a therapy dog.

Volunteering is important to Daly, who voiced admiration for the group of women credited with founding the Hinsdale Humane Society 70 years ago. Long before becoming Bogey's sidekick, Daly was an active volunteer at Madison School, where her two boys, Matt and Nick, spent their days.

"I would do anything and everything that the PTO asked," she said.

"Your time is the greatest gift you can give to your family and your friends and your community," Daly said. "I saw a need that I could fulfill with Bogey."

Bogey completed two tiers of training to become a therapy dog. First, he passed the Hinsdale Humane Society's basic obedience training to become a nonregistered therapy dog. Next, he was tested by Pet Partners, a national organization that prepares animals for work as therapy volunteers.

At his last bi-annual evaluation, Bogey achieved the highest rating available, Daly said.

"That means basically there's not a lot that ruffles his feathers," she said.

As one of Hinsdale Humane Society's 55 Therapaws animals, Bogey has made more than 120 visits to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, libraries and other events and locations in and around Hinsdale. Therapaws volunteers include dogs, cats, guinea pigs and other animals that can help bring comfort, affection and support to people in need of their companionship.

"They can relieve stress," Daly said.

Daly has seen firsthand the impact Bogey can have on a person.

"You see people come to life," she said, recalling a visit with a dementia patient who, according to his nursing staff, had not spoken in months but began speaking during Bogey's visit.

"That gave me the chills," Daly said.

The former teacher's favorite visits involve children reading to Bogey. He helps them relax, Daly said, and with less pressure, their reading improves.

"It helps their reading scores," she said.

Daly's second dog, Ryder, might join Bogey as a therapy dog some day. He has passed some initial tests but isn't quite ready to follow in Bogey's footsteps. As for Bogey, he's not ready for retirement anytime soon.

"As long as he enjoys it, I want to keep doing it," Daly said.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff