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Remarkably, its a dog’s life

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Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 11:35 am

Upon meeting a person with an electromagnetic personality, good looks and Einstein intelligence, one can only imagine all that exceedingly talented individual has achieved. But what if it is that of a dog embodying such qualities? Does one still consider their work to be that of greatness or excellence?

I recently had the privilege of meeting such a charismatic creature and learning of his experiences. And allow me to attest the work of this fine animal as nothing less than great.

The above appraised four-legged fellow is Cody, a 4-year-old male golden retriever. Cody’s owner, cherished companion and selfless chauffer is Bob Stiles, owner of Magnolia Oaks Bed and Breakfast in Columbus. Together they’ve embarked on a journey to help those searching for light amid dark and dreadful times.

Cody is a certified Therapy Dog and a Disaster Stress Relief Dog. He’s obtained these accreditations through Therapy Dogs International, by undergoing evaluations and passing the required tests. Stiles was also obligated to take four courses on the subject and be psychologically analyzed for the volunteer work.

Cody is one of four DSRDs in the state of Texas, and one of approximately 60 in the nation.

“What is the task of a Therapy or Disaster Stress Relief Dog?” one might ask. According to TDI, studies have been conducted to show that a person holding or petting an animal will release strain and tension, lower blood pressure, and possibly relieve a person of depression and loneliness.

These certified animals are taken to locations of distress and tragedy where their presence of love, happiness and lifted spirits surround the victims or patients. This allows the person to shift focus from the bad happenings in their stressful or dreary lives.

Stiles and Cody began their journey visiting nursing homes in Columbus, Weimar, Schulenburg and La Grange. On average they visited 10 homes a month, passing on the genuine joy shown through Cody’s canine grin.

Being a part of the task force, Stiles and Cody were called upon several occasions. The duo contributed their time and efforts to the victims of the Bastrop fires as well as those in Noble, Okla.

On Christmas day, Stiles left for Newtown, Conn., home of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. Cody did not attend this call, but Stiles, for 11 days, added his assistance by evaluating and selecting therapy dogs for the crisis.

Their next deploy led them to the fertilizer plant explosion in West. About a month later, disaster struck in Moore, Okla., where the team traveled most recently.

The area was hit by two EF5 tornadoes that demolished anything and everything in their paths. Stiles and Cody endured the second as they sheltered in an underground tornado protection with a couple. For 10 days, they visited those who lost their homes, giving comfort and moral support.

“Cody does all the work,” Stiles said, “I don’t have to look for who’s hanging their head, who’s crying or the signs of depression; I don’t have to do that.”

Cody senses those needing one of his signature hugs, guaranteed to bring a smile to the gloomiest of faces. Upon greeting he will lean his head on one’s leg and wrap his neck around as if he were giving a hug.

I was lucky enough to experience this sign of affection with a soon aftershock of peace and serenity.

“When he does that people just want to hug him back. It makes them feel very special,” Stiles said, “Therapy is very real and it’s very instant.”

I couldn’t agree more with his statement, for I had encountered just that upon meeting Cody. I walked into the interview a bit nervous but was immediately made to feel at home by Cody’s warm welcome.

Cody is a dog capable of bringing words to the lips of a speechless patient and a smile to those who have lost nearly everything. The work of any living creature naturally gifted in creating light in darkness must be perceived as truly remarkable.

“He was born with it,” Stiles said. “No by-the-book training here.”

Stiles chuckles, “That’d be like training LeBron James to be a basketball player.”

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