The Dog Days of Retirement
Susan Kirshner and her therapy dog share joy and connect with kids

Redefining Retirement

After devoting 31 years to her CPS students, Susan Kirshner retired in 2003. Like so many retirees, she looked forward to traveling and enjoying quality time with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She thought she might also fill her days helping out with her husband’s business. All of that changed when she took her new puppy, Lily, to training school. Lily’s kind nature was obvious to all around her, and the instructor suggested she might want to train Lily to be a therapy dog.

Knowing nothing about therapy dogs and their work, Susan did some due diligence. She went through training (twice as she is now working with a second dog) and is certified with Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, or wherever therapy dogs are needed. Soon after, she landed her first of several jobs in classrooms, nursing homes, and even as part of a post-court rehabilitation program.

What started as a once in a while potential volunteer opportunity has turned into a beneficial partnership with the special education program at Raymond Ellis Elementary School where Susan and her dog Lily (the kids call her Lily Love Lick because she gives them kisses) regularly visit with children. They work together to help students with language arts, emotional stability, and sensory awareness. They are even working together on a “Thank America’s Teachers” grant opportunity to win a sensory playground for the school. Find more information here. Voting is open until November 3.

Susan’s advice to anyone retiring and considering something new is to “go for it.” She says, “If you are willing to give your time and volunteer, you will find that there is so much need.” While her days are busier than expected, she is gratified knowing that she is sharing the love and joy that a dog brings to so many people who need it.


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