Maisie speaks

Pet therapy at CMH

Maisie and Pam Holen visit CMH every week to chat, shake hands and get belly rubs — well, at least Maisie does. 

Maisie is a border collie trained by Patrick Shannahan’s Red Top Kennel in Caldwell, Idaho. After she received intensive training and her AKC Excellent title, Maisie herded sheep for five years before moving to Astoria.

“Pet therapy is our retirement gig,” Holen says. “We meet a variety of people — all who love dogs and love to talk about their dogs, even when they are ill or injured.”Maisie

Maisie and Pam have been visiting CMH since January 2016, spreading joy to caregivers and patients. They also regularly visit the Astoria Public Library and Providence Seaside Hospital. 

CMH Health Compass caught up with this PAW-some pair for an inside perspective on pet therapy.

Maisie, how did your career get started?

I love kids. I also love treats, belly rubs and people who baby talk to me. Mom thought pet therapy would be a good fit for me. 

What’s a good day at CMH?

First, my rounds at the cancer center. Lisa has yummy treats; Cheryl has yummy treats and hugs; and in the gift shop — even if there is a new volunteer — I can tell them where my treats are kept. 

Upstairs, we start with a visit with Suzanne. Again, yummy treats, hugs, belly rubs and a lesson. My mom couldn’t teach me to roll over, but Suzanne had me doing it within a few weeks.

I love visiting with the patients. They all smell of their dogs, and Mom talks to them while I get petted. And I always stop and insist on entering the pharmacy — they’ve got really yummy treats. We then walk to the hospital to visit everyone, and if it is bacon day, it is not only a good day — it is an awesome day!

How do you think Pam would describe you?

A complex, intelligent and special girl. I can be focused, quiet and patient. If sheep are around, I can be loud and crazy. Ditto for a ball. 

I love going to the library on Wednesdays to work, and I get to chase a ball in the back hall with Anne. It is hard not to bark. It’s even harder when it’s time to listen to the kids read. I have to be focused, quiet, and patient again — with no whining. 

So, really, who’s the boss — you or Pam? 

When Pam gets the “mom” look, she is the boss. Otherwise, I see myself as the big dog in our house.

What’s your secret to making people happy?

My smile, my big brown eyes and my superb pawshake.

If you were a superhero, who would you be and why?

Riggs, my sire. He got to live on a sheep farm and herd sheep every single day. He was a super sheep-herding dog who traveled internationally to participate in my favorite game — herding sheep. 

How do you spend your free time? 

I take long walks with my dad, Jim. He lets me off-lead at the cemetery so I can run huge circles around pretend sheep. I am teaching the intruder — Persei the obnoxious mini Aussie pup — to behave so we don’t get the “mom” look. I also follow Moxxie the cat around the house ’cause it annoys her. And, on Thursday afternoons, Pam’s granddaughter comes to visit and we sit on the couch together eating popcorn and watching cooking shows.