Kate Lapides 2017-05-20 05:00:09
FOR THE LOVE OF HELPING OTHERS THE MAGICAL CURE OF CANINES Sometimes, the best healing comes with four paws. FOR BRECKENRIDGE LOCAL Kellyn Glynn, it was love at first sight. She went to look at a litter of puppies in Blue River and watched her then-partner, Kyle, pick them up, one by one, and hold each gently in his hands. Most wiggled and squirmed until he placed them back down into the litter’s mad scramble. Only one tiny pup lay calmly in his palms, staring serenely up at the two humans who would soon take him home, name him Cutty and become his new family. “It might seem silly, but I’ll remember that forever. It was an instant connection,” says Glynn. “Cutty has a way of doing that with everyone. He looks into your soul, and you really feel him in a deep way.” The tiny, preternaturally serene pup soon grew into a hefty 85-pound Golden Retriever, but the gentleness that permeated his spirit remained. Glynn, who works as a licensed professional counselor in Summit County, helping kids and families move through traumatic experiences and life transitions, observed Cutty’s deep capacity to connect and sensed his presence might bring healing to her clients. They enrolled in an animal-assisted therapy training program in Denver; Cutty graduated in 2014 to become a Certified Professional Therapy Dog. Since then, the sweet, gentle retriever has become a powerful and equal partner in Glynn’s work. The magic he brings to counseling? His simple, forgiving, nonjudgmental presence. “What people who are grieving and healing need most is to feel heard and felt by those around them,” says Glynn. “Connection and authentic empathy is incredibly healing for everyone, especially when we are going through a difficult time. This is what Cutty and other therapy animals provide. There is no judgment; there’s just complete truthfulness and genuine connection. That’s what we are all looking for when we are suffering or in a vulnerable space; it allows us to feel safe. And when we feel safe, we can open up further. That’s when the healing can really expand.” Across the world, awareness is growing of the healing that dogs and other animals can provide. Pet therapy programs are popping up in colleges, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons to help students, patients, inmates and the elderly deal with stress, heal from trauma, reduce their sense of isolation and enhance their capacity for empathy. For Glynn, creating space for Cutty to work his magic often means taking a back seat in therapy sessions, especially in her work with children. “Kids gravitate to Cutty in a really amazing way. They go right to him and just start in on whatever it is that they need. My role in the work with Cutty and kids is to encourage the child to figure it out with him. This gives them the confidence and the problem solving skills that they don’t always get to utilize in their lives with adults. I’ve seen some really special interactions with kids who’ve been through a lot in their short lives.” One memorable transformation took place between Cutty and one of Glynn’s young clients on a playground. The client, then eight years old, badly wanted to get Cutty to cross a big swinging bridge on a nearby play set. He tried pulling Cutty by his leash, pushing him from the back, stomping his feet and calling him from the other side. He held Cutty’s ear up and spoke loudly right into it. Cutty, notes Glynn, had always been skeptical of bridges and so he resisted. Finally, after 20 minutes of failed coaxing and prodding, the little boy sat down next to Cutty, put an arm around him and quietly began to talk, mirroring back the fear he saw inside the gentle dog nearly twice his size. “He talked about how he understood being afraid and not wanting to do things that other people wanted,” says Glynn. “He went on and on, talking about trust, about fears, and telling Cutty that he would be okay. He told Cutty that he’d be protected and safe; that he would never let anything bad happen to him. Then, I watched as they both stood up and, with ease, walked across the bridge together. Cutty knew he was safe. And the client was working through fears and safety concerns of his own. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life. They both needed each other so much in that moment. The amount of healing that happened for the client in that experience was astonishing.” Helping clients move through difficult and sometimes deeply painful journeys is intense work for both Glynn and Cutty. The beauty of Summit’s mountains–and its people–offers both a place to refuel. Together, they trail run, mountain bike, ski and snowboard in the backcountry. Cutty adds chasing snowballs and eating sticks to the mix. “The mountains are breathtaking here. I’m humbled by the landscape. And it’s not just the landscape and the beauty of the mountains, but also the people here. Everything about this place is humbling and promotes a feeling of gratefulness in me. And I love that feeling.” And Cutty? He loves his Summit County home and peeps with a fervor equal to his mom’s. “When he’s happy to see someone, his whole body wags, says Glynn. “You can just see how much he loves. And then you look up at the person and they always have the biggest, glowing smile on their face. He makes everyone feel so loved. That’s such a beautiful gift he has.”
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