Welcome to the third installment of the Community Spotlight! These posts highlight some of the amazing work that people are doing within their communities at home, abroad, and everywhere in-between.
Today, I’m doing something a bit different. This one is written from the perspective of Fluffster, who is Felicity’s adorable therapy dog from Fetching Finance Freedom (get it? “Fetching”?).
These posts contain a series of short questions – in bold. Please reach out to Felicity and show her (and her dog) some love for taking her precious time to give back to her (and Fluffster’s!) community. We need more people like you two around.
1: What exactly are you doing within your community?
Greetings, humans! I am the canine contingent of Fetching Financial Freedom. Come for the adorable pictures of me, and stay for the adorable pictures of me [warning: also contains personal finance talk from my humans Felicity and Fergus—just boring “FIRE” stuff and calculators that make my humans stop petting me].
When Steve asked if I’d like to write about how amazingly awesome and charitable I am, I was all, “Well, I don’t know, Steve, like, would it be unethical for me to tell all your readers about how fluffy and adorable and amazing I am, when at most 125 people can experience my fluff first-hand per day? Would the pain of knowing I exist, yet not being able to pet me, send the masses into spiraling depression? And what of the homeless dogs needing good homes? How could anyone adopt them when they know none shall ever measure up?”
Then Steve was all, “You don’t have to—”
“You’re right, Steve,” I quipped, “Screw the unfortunate, this is a story that needs telling!”
Then I sent a selfie.
Some people volunteer their hands or their trade. Most people volunteer their time. Only a chosen few can volunteer their fluff.
I’m what you call a volunteer therapy dog. Not the kind you can take on a plane, sadly, but the kind who doesn’t bark, jump, bite or mind a little heavy petting, if you know what I mean.
This. This is what I mean.
I volunteer anywhere from once a month to twice a week, so it’s safe to say I hands-down win this do-gooder contest Steve has going on. [Note from Steve: I told you, it’s not a contest…]
How did I become a therapy dog?
I had to pass a test and everything, so I’m super qualified. My least favorite part was not being allowed to nom a nom on the floor. My favorite part was the “elevator test,” where a bunch of humans and a few other dogs stand close together, to simulate riding the big moving metal box. That test made it really easy to get all the pats, as I’m at perfect hand height.
There are a number of organizations across the world with therapy dog programs. Some require fancier certifications than others, and the typical visits also change by a lot. My program has thirty-minute visits, and there are groups of dogs at each visit, but the testing is not as strict as most. It definitely makes sense to have your human search for the right program for you.
2: How is it impacting your community? Can you recall any success stories?
My human, Felicity, is my chauffeur, and we go to mostly nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The first thing we do is wait outside for seemingly no reason whatsoever. There’s usually at least one other dog and human pair that visit with us (even though clearly I’m the star), so we greet them outside. I don’t really care about the other dogs, as they only maliciously steal attention away from me, but their humans know how to give really good ear scratches.
The humans we visit with at the homes usually sit in a circle of chairs, so everyone can see my amazing tricks before they praise me. There’s one trick I don’t understand, but it does really well when we’re visiting kids. Felicity will pull out one of my toys, move it behind her back, and then it majicks away! I try looking for it, but all I can see is a new, large bump on Felicity’s back. Wait, is that what the phrase “baby got back” is about? Anyway, then, just as quickly as it disappeared, it reappears! I catch the toy as she throws it, as she clearly loses toys really easily and someone needs to be responsible. Oh, and the crowd goes wild, as they can also see I am a very good doggo.
After introductions and tricks, it’s time for the good stuff! We visit humans one by one (well, sometimes two or three at a time, as I’m a big workaholic), and Felicity does the talking while I do the ridiculously good looking job (and if Felicity’s wearing black sweatpants, I’ll also make sure to add a layer of fur to keep her warm).
3: What is your motivation for giving your time?
- The thing no one realizes about therapy dogging is how often people want to know your weight. It’s especially embarrassing for my human, since the answer is so clearly, “Not enough. Look at him: he’s clearly starving and it’s all my fault.” And since a lot of the humans we see have memory issues, sometimes Felicity has to feel this embarrassment half a dozen times for the same person.
- Lots of people want to adopt you, and for some reason, it’s not possible to live with all the humans under one house. I’ve asked, and apparently, it would be “really difficult to find a house that large, Fluffster, and also very odd to randomly move in with a bunch of strangers.” Harumph.
- Humans don’t like it when you step on their feet, or when your tail whacks against sensitive legs. Don’t worry, though, your human can watch out for this so you can focus on being fluffy.
- As incomprehensible as it seems, not everyone loves you. Some are scared of you, and some just like to look at you from a distance. Again, let the human worry about this. You should definitely try to approach all the humans just in case they’re playing hard to get.
It’s the bestest and most rewarding job ever. You are the center of attention, getting all of the attention and all of the praise. I legit made a human cry tears of joy once. It was amazing.
4: Where can people find out more about what you’re doing?
Well, normally I’m sleeping on my bed, but sometimes I sleep on the couch or my humans’ bed. I find the comfiest nap location is wherever you can occupy the most room caninely possible. I also whine a lot at my humans to give me attention, especially when they’re updating their site, Fetching Financial Freedom, where they write about mindful spending, happiness, and their plan to retire early at 29 and 35 (in order to become full-time servants to me, obviously). You should definitely check the site out, though, as my modeling prowess is on display for, like, every article.
Thanks again, Fluffster (and Felicity)!
Wait, don’t leave yet!
Do you know someone who might be right for a Community Spotlight feature? I am looking for folks who are active in their communities and making a difference. And, they need to be willing to “talk” (aka: write) about it in this kind of format. Maybe YOU are that person? Contact me.
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.