Retirement can mean many things for many people. For some, it’s a chance to travel the world. For others, it’s a chance to finish all those “To Do” projects that would be postponed due to a busy work schedule. For Ron Emory, retirement meant finding a way to bring smiles and joy to cancer patients, children, veterans and wounded warriors.
“When I retired, I told myself and my wife I would find a way to stay busy,” said Emory, whose certified therapy dog Gracie visits cancer patients at the Georgia Cancer Center. “I decided to invest in finding, training and learning how to work with a therapy dog.”
His search led him to Gracie, a golden retriever with a calm demeanor and a love for people. Gracie and Emory are both members of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, whose members visit cancer centers, airports, nursing homes and even college campuses.
“She can do things I could never do,” Emory said. “I love just standing or sitting there and watching her work her charm on these patients, their families, and their friends.”
Emory, whose wife is a double breast cancer survivor, said his wife’s battle with cancer is one of the driving reasons for trying to spread a little joy to patients in the cancer center.
“Gracie is a loving, calming presence for patients,” he said. “She is so smart. Every day is just a delight with her. She never has a bad day.”
Emory and Gracie first visited the Georgia Cancer Center in late 2012/early 2013. The pair is part of the Furry Friends team in Augusta. The teams, which consist of a trainer and their dog, visit the Georgia Cancer Center Outpatient Services clinic, at Radiation Oncology
and in the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. Two teams visit the cancer center on the second and fourth Mondays each month.
“When Gracie visits the hospital she looks around to see if there is someone who needs some puppy love,” Emory said. “She’ll walk towards them, stop about 3-5 feet away and I’ll tell the person ‘Gracie seems to think you might need a visit from her today. Is it okay if she visits with you?’”
While she is a therapy dog at work, Emory said Gracie becomes a regular puppy without her leash on. She loves to play, she enjoys walks and she loves meeting new people. However, when the leash goes on, the puppy fun disappears and Gracie knows it’s time to go to work.