Debra J Gives Back

“I love poodles! What’s there not to love?” says Debra Stein, a business woman who has a growing love for dogs, and heart-filled enthusiasm for giving back. Debra and her poodles have been volunteering since April 2008. An appreciated member at Share-A-Pet, Debra has always had a motherly love for her poodles, all of whom were rescued from sad pasts. Juggling a full time job as a business owner, a household, and poodles, Debra has made an essential effort to fit in time for those in need. With great pride, Debra has managed to incorporate her love for her wonderful poodles into her everyday life, and even more so has given them the opportunity to join her in giving back to their community.

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Debra’s inspiration to give back to her community came from within her heart and the unfortunate loss of her parents due to cancer at a young age. Without the lifelong guidance of her parents, Debra felt that it was important for her to give back to the elderly community in honor of their lives. Her duo of poodles travel almost every week to an Alzheimer’s facility in Boca Raton. As Debra began to describe her stories as a Share-A-Pet member, it was difficult not to get emotional. Painting a vivid imagery in my mind, Debra illustrated these moments to be nothing short of miracles. “It’s a miracle to watch people who can’t remember what they had for breakfast…but they can remember your dog, and smile”.

Debra’s efforts in participating in pet-assisted therapy do not stop there. In addition to her time devoted at the Alzheimer’s facility, Debra has also managed to incorporate private home visits into her busy schedule. Debra has begun working with Hospice by the Sea and visits a private home, owned by a brilliant 100 year old, retired eye surgeon. With little interest in the outside world, Khyber and Sukey bring this gentleman nothing but joy. Their smiles reinforce the meaning of life to this man who utters very few words. Amazingly, as the dogs enter his home and greet him by playing with him, he initiates conversation and asks questions about each of the dog’s lives, as well as Debra’s.

The over abundance of gratitude she feels for her life and her dogs has given Debra the ability to experience life through a different perspective. When asked how she manages to make time every week to visit with her therapy dogs, Debra says “Sometimes it’s hard because you can be busy, and you don’t always feel like going. But when you get there, how can you not share? It is so emotional when you see people who have so little left in their lives to be joyful about. How could food shopping be more important? I take off time from work to do this. I cut my day short so I can do this. When I am there I am not making money. Yes, it is a financial sacrifice, but in the end it is so worth it!”

The number one joy in pet-assisted therapy and the experience it brings are the “smiles that light up the room”. The change in the environment when these therapy dogs enter a room filled with sadness and despair creates a much needed feeling of life, love and inspiration. The love and security these dogs bring to the lives of others is why Share-A-Pet and pet-assisted therapy has become such a life altering cause.

For more information on how to be involved, visit www.shareapet.org.