BURRILLVILLE – They’ve provided comfort to patients in hospitals and nursing homes, and spent time with families affected by tragedies such as schools shootings.
They are the therapy dogs of the Southeastern MA Paws of Comfort Lions, and on Wednesday, May 19, some will visit Burrillville, along with the co-founders of the program, Deborah Horner and Monique Tedino.
The pair, who helped to start the first Lions-based canine therapy/comfort dog club, will bring some of her furry friends to a visit as guest speaker at the Burrillville Lions Club’s meeting.
An Attleboro, Mass. resident and 15-year member of the Lions, Horner has received multiple awards and recognitions for her achievements, including two International President Leadership Awards, several International President Certificates of Appreciation, the Melvin Jones Award and the Helen Keller Award. She was named Lion of the Year in 2020, and in September, she will speak about specialty clubs at the US/Canada Lions Forum in Des Moines, Iowa. Currently, she is a candidate for the Lions Club’s District 33S 2nd Vice District Governor.
She and Tedino, who met through the Lions Club and became friends, got the idea of the therapy dog club after attending a Lions specialty club seminar in Connecticut last year.
The group, a branch of the District 33S Lions Club that serves Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands, was formally organized last year, and now has 38 members and 20 dogs. Recently, the pair helped to launch a second Paws of Comfort Lions Club in Cape Cod.
Noting that dogs, “embrace everyone,” “don’t see color,” and “always smile,” SEMPOC allows the pets, their owners and others who want to help, to connect with registered trainers, and then brings the four-legged comforters to those in need at schools, churches or wherever else they’re required.
It was a chance meeting that connected Burrillville Lion Tom Tatro with the program.
Tatro and Horner were both leaving Dave’s Marketplace in Cumberland when he made casual conversation in the parking lot about an item in her cart, and she noticed a patch on his t-shirt from the club’s 100 year convention.
One thing led to another, and the Burrillville club member arranged the speaking engagement.
“It’s a wonderful program,” said Tatro. “It’s a program that, I think, is inspirational. It’s a very noble program, and it certainly embodies the mission of the Lions, which is, “we serve,” or “when there’e a need there’s a Lion.”
The guests have not yet confirmed how many of the comfort dogs will be visiting Burrillville, but Tatro said it will be “at least a couple.”
The guests will speak at the club’s meeting in the basement of Uncle Ronnie’s Tavern on Wednesday, May 19 starting at 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend the presentation, and a members-only dinner will follow, although visitors are welcome to dine upstairs. Maximum attendance at the event is 60 people.