Harrison County

Daisy, Lola, Honey Bunny and Garbo are part of the Class of 2017 ... for dogs

Saturday was a big day for Daisy D, Lola and Garbo. Honey Bunny was probably a little nervous and so was Pierre, for that matter.

Graduation ceremonies can be simultaneously joyful and stressful, and Saturday’s commencement at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport was no different for its graduates and its families.

Apart from those aspects, however, it was very different.

Lola, Daisy D and Honey Bunny were part of Saturday’s graduating class of eight therapy dogs that have met the proper requirements and will now join other dogs, such as Bella Nera and Foxy, and their humans, in providing services for people in hospitals, nursing homes and even hospice centers.

The graduating class is the latest group of therapy dogs from Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi.

“This is our 11th graduation,” coordinator Patsy Thomas said. “Last year alone we served over 1,000 hours. Our mission is to enhance lives. People need our dogs, and we need more dogs.”

As with any graduation, the service dog commencement had its own color scheme of yellow and royal blue.

“Our therapists wear yellow for the sunshine and royal blue to let people know we are professionals,” Thomas said. “The dogs will receive royal blue bandanas with yellow bones on them, or the dogs who are being re-certified will get yellow bandanas.”

Daisy D, of Vancleave, was one of the excited graduates at the ceremony. The 3-year-old golden retriever’s head was adorned with the square academic mortarboard hat that is commonly seen at graduations.

“My mom has been doing service dogs for seven years with Bella Nera, and it was something that I wanted to do,” said Daisy D’s human, Melissa Pons. “She’s a sweet dog, and she just loves everyone — the training was very easy for her.”

And, of course, the graduate gets some special treatment at home.

“She has to sleep in the bed with us and she likes to watch TV,” Pons said.

Daisy D’s classmate, Lola, of Pascagoula, also gets to sleep in the bed, which is not bad for a dog that was rescued from an animal shelter.

“Lola will be 9 next week, and I rescued her from the Jackson County Animal Shelter,” Tracey Binion said. “She was kind of sick for a while, but once I got her well, everyone kept telling me what a great service dog she would be.”

Binion said there are two things that everyone should know about Lola.

“She loves watermelon,” Binion said. “And she does not like cats.”

Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi

If you are interested in using your dog as a therapy animal or would like more information on their services, call 228-265-0336 or email Patsy Thomas at Email: TherapyDogs09@yahoo.com.