MAKING A DIFFERENCE...WMTD FOUNDERS
Terrilynne Lymburner Jeanne Lewis
Special bonds with canines, a family history of volunteerism, and inspiration came together one day in 2001 giving birth to organized pet therapy in Grand Rapids.
Terrilynne Lymburner had been visiting Kent Community Hospital with her Portuguese Water Dog, Maxine, for over two years. She paid close attention to other volunteers at programs in Mary Free Bed and Metro and recognized that, with an organized effort, more handlers and dogs could be trained and mentored in pet therapy. With that thought, Terrilynne, a geriatric psychologist , approached Jeanne Lewis, dog trainer/enthusiast, with the suggestion of sharing the love of their dogs with others. This simple concept was the seed for what would become an expanding network of pet therapy providers in Southwest Michigan.
As many animal lovers will attest, the benefits of having one (or more) dogs in the family includes terms like "unconditional love" along with many happy memories. Studies have proven interaction with dogs can decrease stress, lower blood pressure, alter behaviors, and even improve reading skills! These facts nurtured the therapy seed.
Jeanne, along with her Great Dane, Indigo, joined Terrilynne visiting at Kent Community Hospital. Eventually, a Kendall student, Amy Cook (Zanger) joined the weekly visits with her big Golden Retriever, Baily. The pet therapy concept was growing stronger! About a year later, Jeanne and Terrilynne relaxed at Riverside park while their dogs played in the water. On that sunny day in May, while chatting about dogs and the benefits of pet therapy, the seed blossomed into West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc.
Today, WMTD has grown to almost 250 members, with handler/dog teams volunteering in 5 counties, supporting more than 50 pet therapy programs. WMTD teams participate in animal assisted activities and provide animal assisted therapy at facilities from nursing homes to major hospitals, for hospices and health organizations, for brain injured individuals in residential facilities and at homes for at risk teens, as well as Ruff Readers at libraries and schools. Classes in pet therapy are offered during the school year. WMTD is a non profit 501 (c)(3) organization and is eligible to receive designated donations through United Way. In 2008, Kent Community Hospital (now Spectrum Health Rehab and Nursing Center on Fuller), graciously provided office and training space for West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc.
Terrilynne and Jeanne continue their passion, actively volunteering with their dogs. They also facilitate the "Intro to Pet Therapy" classes and serve on the board of directors - maintaining the foundation and supporting the WMTD vision. Both are evaluators and members of Delta Society International, Inc.