Letter: Spotlight letter

I noted with sadness the recent passing of Paula Pollitt, a woman who has helped her community in many ways. The town of Hope has benefited from Paula’s leadership and energy on the town council.

Although Paula helped people for years at Columbus Regional Hospital in various roles in the radiology department, I want to highlight the work she did as a volunteer that brightened — and continues to brighten — the lives of people during difficult times.

Paula pioneered therapy dog work in Columbus with her dog, a handsome collie named Laddie. She and Laddie made countless visits to the hospital, where she brought smiles to the faces and joy to the hearts of patients, family and staff alike. It was not an easy program to start because the concept of therapy dogs in clinical settings was just beginning to gather momentum. Paula and Laddie were just the pair to get things rolling, however. Beginning in July 2000, Paula and Laddie spent nine years — more than 1,200 hours — visiting thousands of patients. That is an incredible commitment.

The therapy dog program continues. There are weekly visits by Abby and Emily, a border collie and a dachshund owned by Greg Jones and Bill Boes, respectively. Laddie was directly responsible for my collie, Bonnie, and me becoming a therapy team.

I remember seeing the 2010 article in The Republic about Laddie’s passing. It was my first encounter with the concept of therapy dogs, and reading about the happiness Laddie’s visits brought to people, I was inspired to do the same with Bonnie.

I can hardly tell you what the program has done for me. It has been a real pleasure for the two of us as we follow in Paula’s footsteps.

The people we visit each week have Paula to thank. I did have the opportunity to thank Paula in person a couple of years ago, and for that I am grateful. Perhaps this letter will find someone else who will be inspired to continue the work Paula started.

Doug Bell, a Columbus resident, works in the facilities department at Columbus Regional Hospital and is a volunteer involved with dog therapy work.