Sully the Therapy Dog Coming Soon to the Texas State Veterans Home in Houston
The Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) is delighted to announce that Sully the Therapy Dog will become a permanent resident at the Richard A. Anderson Texas State Veterans Home in Houston later this year. Sully is a one-year old Goldendoodle who was raised and trained by Golden Rule Retrievers, an organization which breeds, raises and trains service and comfort dogs.
Golden Rule Retrievers was founded in 2011 by Amanda Davis and her family in Buffalo, Texas. Amanda’s father started his career in the Security Service as a Russian linguist during the Cold War and was part of the Military Assistance Command (MAC) group that went into Vietnam in the early 60’s to observe and make recommendations to Washington. He then served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot and did five tours in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. After he returned home he found comfort in the company of dogs and horses.
“When my father returned after the war, like many other Veterans, he was expected to forget, reintegrate and be “normal” again. He never succeeded at that. Our lives were forever changed. He didn’t die in Vietnam, but he did give his life for his country. He passed away in 2002, never having reconciled himself to his service or having made peace with his ghosts. My heart breaks every time I think about it. He is the driving force behind our work with Veterans. I think he would be proud to know I spend every day reaching out to Veterans and he would definitely agree with using animal assisted therapy as a tool to help them when they feel isolated and alone,” said Amanda Davis.
Many of the dogs at Golden Rule Retrievers participate in their community program called the DogSquad. Members of the DogSquad are dogs in training for service and therapy, they attend community events for causes related to child abuse, human trafficking, autism, childhood cancer and post-traumatic stress. They also visit schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
“Members of the DogSquad serve as volunteers in many communities where they share joy, lick tears and keep secrets,” said Amanda Davis.
An integral part of Sully’s training during his first year has been with the DogSquad where he has learned how to recognize grief, respond to a crisis, and read body language and tone of voice. Sully will always go towards a difficult situation — not away from it. His is skilled at calming a person through distraction, such as providing a paw to hold, laying on them to provide pressure therapy, or laying close to them providing comfort.
The DogSquad has a partnership called K9U with Centerville ISD in Leon County, which is a foster program where Sully goes home with a teacher at night and during the day Centerville High School or elementary students sign up to be his caretaker. Sully spent the beginning of the school year in the front office at the high school greeting students, teachers and parents every day. Currently, he is in a first grade classroom. Often these caretakers take Sully and other members of the DogSquad to other schools that may be experiencing a crisis to provide them with comfort and love.
This partnership is also important for the students because it helps them learn about responsibility, empathy, grief, and conflict resolution. Students who don’t feel empowered at school, or at home, can gain confidence through caring for others and for their therapy dog. Sometimes what is difficult to say to another person face to face can be practiced first with a dog.
Gracie Davis, Amanda’s daughter, is a member of Squadron 6 of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 805 in the Corps of Cadets at A&M University. Because of her work with these dogs she has always been able to forge relationships with those who have walked difficult paths.
Gracie and her fellow cadets find time every week to visit the residents at Accel, the long-term care home in College Station. Many of the residents there are Veterans and it moves them so much to see the cadets walk through the door with the DogSquad! Sully is a particular favorite and because of his frequent visits he has a lot of experience around wheelchairs and various other machines.
Our hope is that Sully can reassure incoming residents of the Veterans home by helping them to relax physically and emotionally during the admissions process. Studies have shown that petting a dog, or just being near one, radically reduces stress and anxiety in most people. Sully is such a kind and earnest dog and we hope he will be an immediate comfort to any Veteran or resident at the facility who feels uncomfortable or anxious in their new home. Patients who wake up in a bad place and need to start the day on a more positive note can count on Sully to help make this happen.
“I anticipate that this would be good not only for the residents, but the staff and volunteers at the home as well. He won’t serve just one person, which makes him unique among therapy dogs. Sully has the rare ability to walk into a room full of people and pick out the one person who really needs some comfort that day,” says Amanda Davis.
We are extremely grateful to Golden Rule Retrievers for their generous donation, and we cannot wait for Sully to meet his new best friends at our new Veterans home in Houston. We hope to have a therapy dog at all of our Texas State Veterans Homes soon.
“At the VLB we understand the stress of moving into a nursing home and the significance of having served in the military,” said Kathy Johanns, VLB Program Administrator for the Texas State Veterans Homes. “We truly want to make our Veterans’ lives enjoyable and meaningful. Sully and the other Golden Rule dogs will help us in this mission every day!”
Because the VA subsidizes much of a Veteran’s cost to stay at a VLB Texas State Veterans Home, daily out-of-pocket rates are well below average and include the cost of medications for Veterans. Residents can choose between a spacious private or semi-private room based upon availability. Alzheimer’s units at each home provide highly specialized care, including beautifully landscaped, secure courtyards. Like all VLB programs, the Texas State Veterans Homes are self-supporting and cost Texas taxpayers virtually nothing.
For additional information on VLB Texas State Veterans Homes and Cemeteries, and land, home and home improvement loans, call 1–800–252-VETS (8387), or visit TexasVeterans.com. Follow the Texas Veterans Land Board on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Read more blogs at TexasVeteransBlog.com and listen to The Dog Tag at TexasVeteransPodcast.com