Everyone knows Sholy, the fuzzy, fluffy, pet therapy dog that visits staff, visitors, and patients at APD on Fridays.
But do you know the person holding Sholy’s leash? Her name is Cadence “Sugar” Genereaux.
“We walk the halls and the staff says, ‘Hi Sholy, how are you?’” says Genereaux. “We stop in patient rooms, asking if they would like a visit from a dog. Most patients welcome him, pet his soft fur, and share family cat and dog stories with me.”
Pet therapy (also referred to as animal-assisted therapy) is typically a guided interaction between a patient and a trained animal. It can make patients feel happier, decrease loneliness, and reduce anxiety.
But Sholy isn’t the only one doing the work. Pet therapy also involves Genereaux, the animal’s handler; together they are a professional care team. Through Pet Partners, Sholy is trained, certified, and recertified every two years and Genereaux is a certified pet handler.
Genereaux and Sholy limit their volunteer visits to an hour. Sholy is trained to be sensitive to patients and that is tiring work. After his work is done, he receives a treat in the car. After his work at APD one humid Friday afternoon, Sholy is rewarded with a swim in the river.
The team visits the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care on Wednesdays, Valley Terrace and APD on Fridays. At an hour a visit — three times a week for much of the year — the duo easily volunteer 100 hours annually.
Sholy, a Whoodle (Wheaton terrier and poodle mix), wears a different scarf and volunteer hospital badge at each location.
“He knows it is his job,” Genereaux said. “When we get in the car, I put on his scarf and tell him we are going to work.”
Genereaux was a palliative care volunteer at DHMC for a number of years before becoming certified in pet therapy. She started volunteering at APD after undergoing knee surgery and has been volunteering with Sholy for five years.
“I was impressed with my care and wanted to give back to APD,” she said.
Genereaux is a consummate volunteer. She also gives her time to the food shelf, Volunteer Advisory Committee, and Communication Committee at the Upper Valley Haven. She is a member of the Norwich Congregational Church Climate Action Group, past president and secretary of the Norwich Racquet Club, and new member of The Family Place board of directors.
“Volunteering has been a part of my life forever. Where I grew up, it was just what you did — you volunteered,” she said. “It is part of my makeup to share my time, get involved with other groups, and meet new people.”