A couple of people were wondering about Buster, the adorable "therapy dog" that appears in the photo accompanying the "Cancer Care Today" article. We thought we’d dig up a bit more information:

Dori Weisbrod, Buster’s owner, laughs when she describes his personality. "He is a clown," she says, "one of the happiest creatures I have ever met. He wakes up happy; he goes to bed happy". Buster also has a knack for making those around him happy too-children and adults alike are drawn to this sweet, enthusiastic boxer.

Ms. Weisbrod was first introduced to therapy dogs while she was working in nursing homes as a dietician. After seeing the impact that visiting dogs had on the residents’ moods, she knew she had to own one. Buster was certified by Therapy Dog International, an organization that officially certifies therapy dogs after testing their temprament and ability to handle stress (furry graduates get a special tag and a printed license). A certification from this organization simply confirms that the dog can provide safe, positive companionship.

Although therapy dogs are notservice dogs, Dori knows first-hand that simple companionship can provide immeasurable benefits. When she brings Buster to Angel Foundation events, certain children feel an especially strong bond with the dog. A small crowd usually gathers to pet him, and a few simply cannot be removed from his side.

Buster also sends out birthday or congratulations cards to children who sign up – these simple, caring gestures can be a special way that a sick parent might reward a child for an act of kindness, or as recognition for a good attitude. Kids love to send Buster e-mail (he has his own account, Buster@mnangel.org, and will respond as quickly as his busy schedule allows) whether it be to ask him about his day, or to share their own worries about cancer.

Dori notes that, "dogs can be very beneficial because they provide kids with an outlet and an ability to listen. Humans listen and offer advice. Dogs listen. And dogs don’t judge." Many children have trouble sharing their fears or feelings about a parent going through cancer. For a few, a quiet listener in canine form might just break that barrier. Dori sums up Buster’s gift: "If you can impact one child in this way, it’s worth it".

Although Buster primarily attends Angel Foundation events, Ms. Weisbrod is open to bringing Buster to other organizations and events. If you are interested in Buster and his companionship, email Dori .