When guests at Transitional Care of Arlington Heights (TCAH) call out “Steellla!” they are not channeling their inner Stanley Kalowski (as famously played by Marlon Brando in “Streetcar Named Desire”). Rather, they are affectionately greeting their favorite canine therapist, Stella, a six-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier.
“We offer animal therapy visits about twice a month,” says Sarah Walker, TCAH Event Director. “Animal therapy helps reduce stress and promote positive moods, so it’s a special treat when Stella interacts with our guests.”
Stella is a 6-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier, who was adopted from the Boulder Colorado Humane Society by Julie, her daughter Ingrid and their family. Ingrid was a longtime Humane Society volunteer and foster parent all through high school. At the end of her junior year she desperately wanted a new dog or puppy. Her family agreed, and Ingrid started keeping an eye out for dogs coming through the Humane Society.
Stella was a lost, six-week-old pup that was found loose on the streets of south Boulder. At the Humane Society, Stella kept running back and forth in her cage and bringing toys to Ingrid (something she still does to this day). Well, it did not take long for Ingrid and her family to decide that they wanted to adopt Stella. They had to wait ten days for someone to claim her and then another week so they could spay her before they could take Stella home. “It was an anxiety filled couple of weeks, but worth it,” Julie reflects.
“Working together as a canine therapy team has been a wonderful experience, and one that Stella and I both enjoy!”
~ Julie (pictured with Stella, left)
Boulder is a very animal-friendly community, and Ingrid took Stella with her everywhere. She has been in every Boulder store, coffee shop and outdoor restaurant and has taken more than a few rides on the bus. She even went to school with Ingrid a few times, and all of the high school parties that Ingrid attended, Stella attended. She became a bit of a mascot!
Ingrid and Stella also attended basic and intermediate obedience and puppy classes together. She has always had a lovely disposition, but she is a very big girl and was a high-energy puppy, so training was paramount.
When the family moved to Chicago, Ingrid stayed in Boulder and was unable to keep Stella in an apartment, so Stella came to Chicago with Ingrid’s family. With her loving and kind disposition, Julie knew Stella would make a wonderful therapy dog. Together they did another six months of basic training and then took the certification test for Therapy Dogs International.
“Working together as a canine therapy team has been a wonderful experience, and one that Stella and I both enjoy!” says Julie. “It is so fun to see people light up when they see Stella, and I enjoy hearing the stories about the patients’ own dogs.”