Fluffy tail twitching with excitement, ears alert to the sounds surrounding her and nose sniffing at unfamiliar scents, Piper walks calmly beside her owner, Brian Thompson, to the Imagine Room for Doggy Daze at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Turning the corner, the therapy dog greets the children, reminding them of their own pets left at home.
Thompson and his dog Piper have been Doggy Daze volunteers since October 2014. They make the trip from Milan, Tennessee, twice a month to visit with patients and families.
Thompson said patients at Doggy Daze enjoy describing their pets to him while petting Piper.
“I know that the time they spend with Piper takes their minds off of the problems they have, and hopefully, they forget them while they are with us,” Thompson said.
Thompson, an outdoors enthusiast, said he chose to volunteer at St. Jude to bring happiness to patients, families and staff.
“I wanted to be able to share Piper with the kids of St. Jude. I wanted to see the smiles on their faces when they walk in and see a big fluffy dog in the hospital. I wanted to see the smiles on the parents and staff’s faces,” Thompson said.
During his time as a volunteer, Thompson’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. That experience gave him a new and deeper perspective of his work here.
“Knowing what she has had to endure makes me really appreciate how strong these kids, parents and nurses really are,” Thompson said. “I know firsthand how important it is to see a smile on someone’s face when they haven’t been feeling good.”
Thompson said he cherishes all the memories he has made volunteering with Piper at St. Jude.
“All of our visits at St. Jude are favorite memories,” Thompson said. “The staff is so positive and really seems to enjoy what they are doing. You can definitely see that the patient comes first.”
Thompson said he hopes his visits bring joy to the patients, families and staff members he meets at Doggy Daze.
“I hope that when they go back home, wherever that is, they remember that big, white fluffy dog that came to see them. Hopefully, I’ve made a difference in someone’s life, when things may not be going like they had hoped,” Thompson said.