Therapy Dog Owner a ‘Hometown Hero’
This week's "Hometown Hero" is Louise Belensz.
Louise volunteers throughout her community, including at a local school tutoring children and teaching others how to ski at the Double H Ranch. But she really enjoys bringing her therapy dog, Otis, to local nursing homes to help and cheer elderly residents.
As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste, Latham Ford, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and Awards by Walsh to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.
We asked Louise a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What inspires you to volunteer in so many ways, especially bringing your dog to visit the elderly?
A: What initially inspired me to volunteer is the fact that I am so lucky and blessed to have so many good things going for me in my life. I have always felt that while I am on this planet, I should not just take what is given to me, but to share with others, take care of the earth and take care of those around me.
The incredible challenges that others face day to day and the impact I can have by just giving a few hours here and there are the inspiration for me. For example, the elderly people I visit have so little going on in their day, a simple visit from the dog is really a highlight. And my dog loves it too!
Q: What's the most rewarding thing about what you do?
Each volunteer opportunity has its own rewards. Basically it comes down to seeing the impact on the people when I volunteer.
When I bring my therapy dog to visit the elderly, they are so happy to see him. It brings back memories of their pets growing up, which is a big deal for those with memory loss. The folks living there get a lot of enjoyment and comfort from petting Otis. Their reaction is what keeps me coming back every Monday. The staff love to pet him too!
Also, my husband loves the outdoors and being active, so volunteering as adaptive ski instructors for the Double H Ranch allows us to share that love with kids that typically would not get a chance to ski because of the diagnosis they have. They and their families are just thrilled to have the opportunity to be outside learning to ski.
Q: What are some challenges?
I work full time so my volunteering has to fit with my schedule and that of my family. For example, my dog, Otis, is very calm and loves to just sit and be petted, so it's a natural fit to have him certified as a therapy dog. When I looked around for where we could visit, there was an opportunity nearby at Beacon Pointe, not too far from my home, so that fit my schedule.
As far as the Double H schedule, it was something I wanted to do for a long time, but with kids in high school and involved in their own sports, it wasn't feasible. Now that my kids are in college, I have the time and my husband volunteers too, I don't feel like I am taking time away from him! When my kids were younger my volunteer activities revolved around school.
Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not.
A: No, I do not consider myself a hero. I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have such a wonderful life (good health, good family, good job, etc.) that it's only right that I share some of my time to make things a little better for someone else.