She has been described as a teacher, a healer, a guide and a true blessing; but what certified therapy dog Penny is best known for is her ability to understand. Penny is a ten-year-old Golden Retriever whose exemplary service extends to the hundreds of patients that she has touch all over the United States.
Penny began her journey during the first two years of her life, when she began training with Guide Dogs of Texas. It was quickly determined that she possessed extraordinary talent and that her path would be one of service to others.
Known as “the healing angel,” the Golden is said to have the “gift of presence that awakens something in someone.” When she enters a room of 80-90 patients, the hustle and bustle immediately becomes calm and quiet in her presence. According to owner Patsy Swendson, “Penny is both the giver and the beneficiary simply by her presence.”
The therapy dog has been credited with momentous feats. After a visit with Penny, patients have been known to regain some of their memory, utter the first words following an injury, move their limbs for the first time, track Penny’s movements with their eyes and even smile for the first time. “I asked Scott, a young head injury patient, if he had a dog,” explains Swendson. “He held up three fingers. I asked him what he thought of Penny. He struggled to speak, as his therapist wiped his wet chin. His head was bent down, but his eyes look up at me and he said just one word: LOVE. Scott had not spoken since his accident.”
For her dedication to service, Penny has been awarded the Texas Veterinary Medical Association’s Highest Award: The Companion Animal of the Year. She was also inducted into the Texas Animal Hall of Fame.
Swendson has also chronicled the amazing stories of her visits to patients all over the world in a book entitled: Penny’s From Heaven: Stories of Healing. Swendson describes the stories as “powerful, touching and full of heart and soul. They are like precious gold coins. Readers will cheer in response to the amazing and breathtaking breakthroughs that occur each and every time Penny walks into the hospital.”
Although Penny is close to eleven, Swendson has found it difficult to retire her from therapy work because of the wonderful gifts she has shared with so many. Penny visits the HealthSouth Rehabilitation Institute in San Antonio regularly. She also works with fearful pediatric dental patients, cancer patients, stroke survivors, Iraqi amputees, head injury and critical care patients and more. The stories – and Penny – are both heartwarming and inspirational.