Canine Compassion


After a difficult start in life, therapy dog Maisie returns the love that saved her
By Kim Jaworski

Compassion can be the awareness of another’s struggle and our willingness to stand with them and walk with them through their difficulty. Sometimes it is bearing witness to their struggle and supporting them as best we can as they move forward. 

Maisie came to be a therapy dog through a bit of grace and compassion herself. And now she shares her compassionate soul with the Sisters at Assisi Heights and patients at Seasons Hospice.

A star is born

Maisie is an English Springer Spaniel mix who was rescued from a disreputable breeder by English Springer Rescue America, Inc. and found her way into the home of Jean Rynda and Bill Goetzinger of Rochester.

Jean had done some volunteer work a number of years ago with the Golden Valley Humane Society, bringing puppies and kittens to group homes. She could see what a difference the animal visits made to people and the connections they made. She hoped to do therapy dog work someday.

The timing was finally right, 30 years later, when they adopted Maisie.

Initially, Maisie was shy and frightened as a result of her difficult first year of life. Maisie’s breeder had been shut down and the animals were then just an encumbrance. Rescue saved Maisie’s life, but there was healing to do.

Jean enrolled Maisie in Paws Abilities classes and the Seasons Hospice therapy dog program for special training, observation, testing and registration with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She discovered this timid girl really liked to take the classes and just blossomed. Maisie is also an AKC-Canine Good Citizen.

With love and compassion in her new home, Maisie learned to trust and love in return. She was a natural with the animal therapy program and loves to visit with people.

All in a day’s work

Now, Maisie has been visiting the Sisters at Assisi Heights for the past year. She comes with Jean twice a month for about two hours during each visit. There is compassion in her eyes as she approaches each person and invites them to touch her.

Maisie loves all of the Sisters and appreciates their affection, attention, ear and tummy rubs, and some treats. She also enjoys meeting other people in the entrance lobby and hallways during her visits. Jean and Bill feel fortunate to have found such a special dog and to have the dream of doing therapy animal work become a reality. It is wonderful to see the effect Maisie has on people!

Kim Jaworski is Life Enrichment Assistant at Assisi Heights. This article originally appeared in the Sisters of Saint Francis’ Fall 2017 Issue of Interchange. Reprinted with permission.