Michael Sparrow’s Golden Retriever, Jersey, started his therapy dog rounds when he was just 18 months old – the youngest dog to pass the certification test, according to the Canine Therapy Corps newsletter. Jersey passed away in January 2011 at the age of 13 ½, but he’s left a lasting legacy at the organization. Canine Therapy Corps is a volunteer organization where the pets, not service dogs, are trained to assist people in therapy at all levels of mental and physical limitations.
“Dogs don't judge us,” explains Michael. “Their unconditional love inspires people to try harder in therapy to get the dog to do something.” Jersey was a fixture at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where his gentle demeanor made him a favorite of children, teens and adults alike. Jersey was able to coax a teen’s first smiles after he’d been disfigured in a fire, and motivate the incredible recovery of a law enforcement officer after a nearly crippling accident.
Jersey also worked at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital when they decided to try animal therapy at their children’s hospital. Three year-old Ashely would play with Jersey after her Leukemia treatments. For Ashley, getting to work with Jersey gave her something to think and look forward to about during her treatment.
Besides volunteering with Jersey, Michael was co-chair for the 2009 UNLEASHED, a street jamboree and game night, silent auction, and dance to benefit Canine Therapy Corps.
Michael is now working with his 2.5 year-old rescue dog named Brady, who is still too much of a strong-willed puppy (particularly when meeting people for the first time) to become a therapy dog. However, Michael feels confident that in another year, Brady will be able to follow the proud path of his canine predecessor.