When We Met
It was completely dark when I merged off Interstate 84 and arrived in Burley. There were a few cars parked in front of Cassia Regional Medical Center, and the time change was making 7 p.m. feel like midnight.
Lori Kreider stood in the empty lobby of the hospital with Lil Bit, a white miniature poodle, at her feet. The girl working inside the gift shop was closing for the night, the keys to the door in her hand as she locked up.
As people left to go home, Kreider and Lil Bit went to work.
Kreider and Lil Bit are members of Therapy Pets Serving Mini-Cassia Inc., a group of volunteers, human and animal, who visit nine Mini-Cassia facilities to help improve the health and well-being of those they interact with. All of the dogs and cats are registered through either Pet Partners or Therapy Dogs Inc., which provides registration, support and insurance for volunteers and their animals.
Kreider said pet therapy is fairly new to the Burley area, and the group is looking to recruit more members.
When Kreider and her daughter, Cassie Douglas, moved from Nebraska to Burley 12 years ago, there was no pet therapy organization in the area. In Grand Island, Neb., Kreider and Cassie were both were registered pet partner teams with Therapy Dogs Inc.
But it didn’t take them long to find other animal lovers in Burley who also wanted to donate their time visiting people in hospitals, retirement homes and detention centers.
When Therapy Pets Serving Mini-Cassia started in 2001, the volunteers went to only two facilities; now they visit nine.
In 2003 Kreider was accepted as a Therapy Dogs Inc. tester and observer, which means volunteers in Mini-Cassia do not have to travel far to register their dogs.
The group currently has seven active members and often visits locations in pairs of teams. On Nov. 7, Kreider and Lil Bit were joined by Mick Hodges and Bell, a female golden retriever.
By day, Hodges is a magistrate judge at the Cassia County Courthouse and serves as a volunteer chaplain. Kreider is a business analyst when she’s not teamed up with Lil Bit.
Kreider and Hodges said that no matter how tired they are after work, going around with their dogs to visit people is often the most enjoyable part of their day.
“When they’re pets you get closer to them, but when they’re pet therapy (dogs) you get closer,” Hodges said. “It improves and strengthens the bond because you are a team.”
Why You Might Know Her
If you’re ever at Cassia Regional Medical Center, as a patient or a visitor, and see a woman with a poodle wearing a red vest, don’t be afraid to stop and say hello. Lil Bit loves people; in fact, in order to be a pet therapy dog that’s the one thing that can’t be trained.
Before Lil Bit and Bell made their rounds Nov. 7 at the hospital, they were greeted by a girl walking through the lobby with her grandmother.
“You want to pet the doggy?” Kreider asked.
The girl, sucking on her thumb, shook her head yes as the ears of Lil Bit and Bell perked up at the sight of a little hand wanting to pet them.
When I Said Goodbye
Kreider and Lil Bit were flagged down by a visitor of a hospital patient. The woman she was visiting wanted to see Lil Bit.
“Oh, I miss my bulldogs,” the patient said.
Lil Bit sat in her lap, giving her kisses with her tongue.
“You just made my whole year,” the woman said.
More information: therapyppetsservingminicassia.com.