By Lucca Lorenzi, Public Affairs Volunteer
As a Marine Corps veteran, Allen Eager not only values service to his country, but also serving those who have served. Eager and his two puppy pals, Desi (Doxen-Dalmatian) and Blue (Doxen-Dapple), have been serving the Service to the Armed Forces and Alliance of Therapy Dogs for three years.
“Those two get along great together. Some patients will be in a wheelchair and I’ll put them in their lap because they’ll just listen to patients’ stories. Desi and Blue could tell you many World War II stories,” Eager said.
Desi is seven years and Blue is a year and a half. “They are beyond my best friends,” Eager stated.
Eager first learned of the therapy dog program when, after a few visits at the California Veterans Home, he noticed some therapy dogs at work. He reached out to the Red Cross, and volunteer Sarah Brown-Monroe helped Desi and Blue become certified therapy dogs.
The certification program was eight weeks long and completed through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Eager said that Desi and Blue had to learn how to avoid distractions, such as jingling coins, and behave around medical apparatuses, such as wheelchairs. “It’s a very intense program,” he stated.
Eager has also taken on the hobby of oil painting and incorporates that in his volunteer work.
Although he is colorblind, he does not let that stop him from making art for others to enjoy. He said his wife helps him by writing the colors on his tubes of paint.
Eager has created seven oil paintings of patients’ dogs. “When I hand them the oil painting, they start crying,” Eager said. “I went to visit a 95 year-old patient who has mild Alzheimers. I had painted for him before the pandemic, and when I visited recently, the painting was at the foot of his bed. He said ‘I look at that dog every day and it reminds me of where I am and it gives me peace.’”
Eager, Desi and Blue also visit veterans who have no one to stay with them in their final days. “We sit by their bedside so that they have somebody with them until the end,” he stated.
Eager said that, as a veteran himself, it is particularly meaningful to be able to volunteer with Desi and Blue and visit with other veterans.