Sophie…Best Friends are Forever by Ted Slupik
Celebrating simple acts of giving: a must read for all dog lovers!
Just walking into a hospital makes me feel a bit anxious, even if I’m not the patient. When I enter Edward Hospital’s south entry, I always pause because I really enjoy looking at the wall displaying the therapy dogs. The pictures make me smile and I find myself breathing easier.
Ted Slupik’s adopted collie, Sophie, served for over twelve years as a registered therapy dog. In fact, Sophie was one of those beautiful dogs I admired on that wall. Backed by the latest research, these tail-wagging’ volunteers make hospital stays better. For this reason, many hospitals include an animal-assisted therapy program (AAT) in their treatment plans.
Sophie, could not have been a better therapist, whether her new friend was young or old, she delivered that special something, either a welcomed distraction for children or a comforting, nostalgic reminder for older adults who had grown up watching Lassie. Sweet Sophie was a friend for patients and staff alike. In fact, the staff looked forward to Sophie’s visits as much as the patients.
Patty Kaplan, RN, BSN, founded Paws 4 Therapy in 2001, an organization specializing in the development and operations of hospital-based AAT programs. She implemented Edward Hospital’s AAT Program, serving as its director when Sophie and Ted were volunteering. She and trainer, Susan Jakobs, of Dog Builders, accepted Sophie and Ted in the program.
Patty’s passion comes through as she explains, “The visiting dogs make a positive impact, giving unconditional love. It’s a moment to JUST BE. When meeting people in a hospital setting, the team has no idea what’s going on in that person’s day. Whether the person is a patient, visitor, or staff member, EVERY interaction is an opportunity to make somebody’s day better. It takes more than an intuitive dog, however. The handler needs to have an intuitive mindset as well. Ted and Sophie were dedicated volunteers who made a difference for many years.
Sophie’s trigger was when Ted put his jacket on. She understood she had a job to do. Their passion was evident.”
Ted freely shared Sophie’s therapeutic talents with countless people. She also regularly visited an Alzheimer’s wing of a nursing home. When Sophie passed away, she was greatly missed by more than just the Slupiks. Ted’s desire to share did not wane; in fact, he was inspired to describe Sophie’s joyful life in a book so her work could continue.
Not only did Ted want to honor his collie’s memory in his book, but he wanted to describe his own life-affirming experiences as her humble partner. Ted sings the praises of all therapy dogs who touch the lives of people in need every day. He’s confident Sophie’s story will spark an interest, recruiting potential volunteers.
Whether these dogs work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, libraries or private homes, their contributions make lives better. Ted celebrates his collie’s simple, yet amazing, acts of giving in his book, Sophie…Best Friends are Forever.
In 2012, before losing Sophie, Ted and his wife, Bernie, had started a foundation called Lizzy’s Fund in honor of Sophie’s former sister, Lizzy, a long-haired Chihuahua, who was 16 1/2 years old when she passed away. In January 2016 the foundation was formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charity in Illinois. The foundation’s mission is to assist senior dogs, like our Misha and Sally, who find themselves abandoned. Lizzy’s Fund helps these senior dogs receive medical treatment, improving their likelihood of being adopted. The Slupiks want Sophie’s legacy to be one that also supports this mission. So, in keeping with the true spirit of “sisterly love,” Ted and Bernie have earmarked the proceeds from Sophie’s book to help support Lizzy’s Fund. It seems the perfect arrangement, considering that Sophie and Lizzy were best friends. Lizzy, however, who had been a bit bossy, will remain top dog and the foundation will keep her name. For more information about Lizzy’s Fund please visit the website http://www.lizzysfund.org
Here’s a sneak peek from the book: One of the stories describes a day Ted and Sophie were visiting a nursing home’s Alzheimer’s wing. Sophie happened upon Leo, sitting in his wheelchair all alone in the far corner of the activity room. Seeing the collie, the elderly man held out his hand and called softly to her. Responding, Sophie wiggled her way up to him, followed close behind by Ted. Sophie gently nudged, encouraging the man with her long, wet collie nose to continue the conversation. This was Sophie’s usual behavior and Ted saw nothing extraordinary. However, what Ted did not know, was that Sophie’s new friend, Leo, had totally shut down, becoming catatonic. On this particular day, Sophie’s “healing power” was amazingly demonstrated…Leo spoke and continued to speak from that day forward! As it turned out, Ted had witnessed a miracle.
This story is just one of the many heartwarming moments Ted shares with his readers. Laura T. Coffey, award-winning writer, editor, and producer for TODAY.com, the website of NBC’s TODAY has fallen for Sophie too, calling Ted’s book “a love story.” Coffey is the author of the bestselling book, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts. Wanting to promote Sophie’s message, she’s written the forward for Ted’s book.
Besides including the contributions of famous journalists, like Coffey, Ted’s also distinguished our C.R.G.I. newsletter by including a story written by Dale Mohr that was published in The Collie Nose of March 2014. Dale’s story focuses on the history and positive aspects of therapy dogs. Dale used Sophie and Ted’s partnership as an example of a successful team that was still on the job at the time of the article’s initial publication. Sophie at that time had the distinction of being the longest-serving therapy dog in Edward Hospital’s program. We are delighted the author has included Dale’s column in this uniquely wonderful book.
Holiday or birthday shopping for family and friends who love dogs?…DONE! Giving this book gives back. After all, who doesn’t want to help a senior dog find a home? Sophie’s exemplary life teaches us about the joy of giving and the importance of paying it forward. Ted says, “The most important lesson to be learned from this book is that every day is a gift.”
The book is available for purchase through the websites www.sophiebestfriendsforever.com and http://www.lizzysfund.org. Readers can also purchase a copy at Anderson’s Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. An exciting opportunity to meet the author at Anderson’s Bookshop (downtown Naperville) is planned for the near future. We promise to keep you informed.