Bright Spot Therapy Dogs

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Human connection can be a powerful force for good. But Cynthia Hinckley, a long time Pioneer Valley resident, has always felt that the connection we receive from dogs can be just as influential. That’s why, back in 1992, she was passionate to find a place where her therapy dog, Beatrice, could visit to share her warmth and love.
“I finally convinced a local nursing home to allow us in and Beatrice quickly became a beloved friend to residents and staff, alike. For nine years, I had the sheer pleasure of witnessing so many magical moments between my dog and those she visited, that when Beatrice passed, I knew her wonderful work needed to continue,” Cynthia recalls.
Her experience with Beatrice inspired her to establish Bright Spot Therapy Dogs in 2004 with her new dog, Trudi. “We created Bright Spot with the mission of opening more doors to visiting therapy dogs while also encouraging more people to become involved with this meaningful work,” Cynthia says.
Now, almost 15 years later, Bright Spot Therapy Dogs has trained over 600 therapy dog teams, and has more than 200 healthcare, educational, and business facilities throughout the Pioneer Valley that are requesting their volunteer services. Cynthia is still in awe of the great success her organization has achieved and proudly says, “Since the inception of the organization, seven of my own dogs have been certified therapy dogs and together we have made over 30,000 visits.”
When asked to recall one heartwarming moment during the tenure of the organization that reaffirmed her dedication to the mission of Bright Spot, she smiled and said, “I will never forget the time my dog James visited with an Alzheimer’s patient and his wife. His wife stood watching them meet, and tears began to fill her eyes as her husband made eye contact with James, petted his head and said, ‘I had a dog just like this years ago; he was such a good dog.’ His wife later told me that her husband hadn’t spoken in over two years and until that moment with James, had not recognized or made eye contact with anyone. The impact that James had on that Alzheimer’s patient was unforgettable and truly profound.”
This story along with countless others proves that Bright Spot’s mission thrives when the therapy dogs are comforting people in need. Bright Spot Therapy Dogs put this point into action when a partnership was formed with the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. “We have special Third-Saturday-of-the-Month group visits to the Soldiers’ Home. We usually have fifteen teams visit with the veterans and they’re always quick to tell us how much they look forward to the dog visits,” Cynthia says.
For many people, it’s incredible to think that a group of well-trained dogs could be a lifeline for people who are struggling. Cynthia nods and poignantly adds, “What sets a dog apart from a human is that the dog provides ‘quiet companionship.’ He is there to pet and hug – no conversation required. The dog is a non-judgmental, non-threatening listener. We humans are quick to fill silence with words. The dog is just there to listen and be loved.”
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