Furry Ministries’ Kip is good therapy
HARPERS FERRY — A wet nose and a nudge can work wonders.
Just ask Karin Fellers, whose 6-year-old border collie, Kip, accompanies her on visits to area nursing homes and respite facilities as part of her work with Furry Ministries.
Begun in 2007, Furry Ministries is the brainchild of Cathy and Glenn Fudge, who came up with the idea of bringing dogs to visit people who were bedridden or residents of care facilities.
The service brings the therapy dogs to visit people in Jefferson County and as far away as Berryville, Va., and Hagerstown, Md.
“We take them mostly to nursing homes and some hospitals. We have worked with children,” said Fudge, adding the ministry now has 10 volunteers and as many as 20 dogs in the program.
Fellers got the idea to join Furry Ministries while Kip was recovering from an injury he sustained while training on an obstacle course.
Now, she takes Kip with her each month to one of four different nursing homes.
“It’s very rewarding to see the smiles on people’s faces,” Fellers said. “He’s pretty energetic. He seems to enjoy it and so do I.”
It’s not just to residents at nursing homes and care facilities that dogs can do good work, Fudge said.
Some of the therapy dogs in the program visit libraries where some children have trouble reading.
“There are children that do really well when they read to a dog,” she said, adding the dogs have a calming effect on young and old alike.
“Some elderly are surprised when the dogs visit,” she said “There are a very few that don’t want the dogs to visit. Most of the time they bring back memories and tears of joy.”
And the dogs seem to know just what demeanor to bring with them when they make their rounds. They know when to play, particularly around children and they can sometimes do what doctors can’t — calming someone who is agitated.
“They calm down when the dog is present,” Fudge said, adding she witnessed it often when she would take her dog, Brodie on visits. “It’s a huge gift to see their loved one calm down from an irritated state in the presence of a dog.”
The power of therapy dogs was brought home to Fellers when her mother fell ill and had to have open-heart surgery.
“Kip’s visits were the highlight of her day putting a huge smile on her face,” she said. “Without Kip’s certification he would not have been permitted to visit her in ICU.”
And Kip is unique among therapy dogs. He does tricks.
“Most Border Collies have to be kept active so I started teaching him a lot of tricks,” Fellers said of Kip who prays and plays dead, pushes around a cart of toys and even knows when you need a tissue.
“When I sneeze he brings me a Kleenex,” Fellers said.