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Posted: March 31, 2019

Irene’s Angels: paying it forward with kindness

By Monica Vording

There is such a thing as angels.

Maybe not the kind with wings but certainly the kind that makes a difference, whether big or small, once they have exited our planet. This is the story of a ‘chance encounter’ that led to bringing smiles to those in need.

A few weeks ago I bought some items off a computer website for an organization I volunteer for called Therapeutic Paws of Canada, Cranbrook/Kimberley. Basically, we have handlers and their own personal dogs who visit different facilities to provide comfort to the residents therein and to take part in several other programs such as ‘Paws to Read’ and ‘Paws Room’ in the schools.

I happened to come across some adorable ‘dog Beanie Babies’ being auctioned off on a community bidding website, so I grabbed the opportunity to bid on these as our team had recently discussed beginning a collection of ‘dog stuffies.’ These would be handed out on our visits, to the patients in the hospital, residents in seniors homes, students, people at funerals etc. to help give them some comfort and a reminder of the positive feeling a dog can have when feeling lonely, anxious or upset.

I was thrilled when I won the auction and quickly went to pick up my three little dog ‘Beanie Babies.’

This amazing woman named Heather Smith greeted me with a smile and handed my auction winnings over to me. I told her that I was excited as they were going to be used for a good cause and went on to explain. Heather’s eyes widened and she quickly told me that I had to come back tomorrow as there were many more from where these came from.

She shared the history of these Beanie Babies with me and stated that she didn’t want anything for them as they had belonged to a friend of hers, named Irene Harkness, who when she was dying, had an organization, similar to ours, bring in a dog for her to snuggle, comfort and visit with.

Heather shared: “All of the Beanies belonged to her. She passed away in Salmon Arm. I think our paths must have been meant to pass. The Beanies that I posted had expired and I was getting ready to remove them and your bid was there. Divine intervention.”

Heather went on to dig through the collection her friend, Irene, had left behind only to find close to 50 more dog beanie babies to donate to our team.

Our team felt overwhelmed with this act of kindness and we put our heads together to think of a way to best honour Irene’s memory and how each beanie holds a part of the special person who collected them, loved them and according to Heather ‘would be honoured’ to share them with others.

This seemed to make everything that much more meaningful. We decided we would attach a small pink heart to each of the Beanie Babies with the message ‘Irene’s Angels, a gift for you to cuddle, from Therapeutic Paws of Canada Cranbrook/Kimberley donated in memory of Irene Harkness.’

The family, friends and Heather Smith, of course, are thrilled to know that Irene’s memory will be kept alive, with every hug, snuggle and smile that each stuffy provides when shared with others. As a team, we are so grateful for being the recipients of such a generous and unique gift and we can’t thank Heather and Irene’s family enough, for showing their support. For more information on this story or if you want to find out more about Therapeutic Paws of Canada, visit the website.

Also, if you would like to make a donation of, new or in excellent condition, dog stuffed animals for our cause, please contact Monica Vording, co-team leader at [email protected] or phone 250-919-5801.

Lead image: Heather Smith with a TPOC Therapy Dog named Patches. Photos submitted


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