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Mom uses her dogs to bring joy to the lives of others [Commentary]

BY ERIKA BUTLER, ebutler@theaegis.com

9:03 AM EDT, May 3, 2013

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To say that my mom is into dogs, boxers specifically, would be an understatement.

And while she's been successful in breeding her dogs and promoting the breed, it's her non-boxer work that makes me most proud of her. For the last 12 years, my mom has been spending a few hours every Thursday at Stella Maris, a nursing home, rehab center and hospice care center in Timonium, bringing her dogs to people who need some cheering up.

My mom, Bobbi Compton, has had a dog just about all her life, and they've all been boxers.

When she was a kid, it was Bonnie. Then when Mom and Dad got married, they got a dog, Baerbl (German for Barbara, my mom's name), not too long before I was born.

When she died around age 12, my parents told me and my brother we weren't going to get another dog right away. They wanted us to learn that when you lose something, you don't go out and replace it right away.

My parents couldn't stand it, though, and two weeks later we had a new puppy named Inge, which was my mom's entry into the world of dog obedience and breeding.

Since then, my parents have had 11 dogs, all with German names (they lived in Germany, where my dad was stationed in the Army, right after getting married in 1969). Even their kennel name is German, Schoental, which means beautiful valley. They've had as many as five living in the house at once, much to my dad's chagrin.

It's really my mom's thing, he says, but he's loved having some of those dogs ride around with him in the truck.

My mom has been a pretty successful breeder, with several champions under her belt. While she breeds them to show, she also breeds them to become well-loved family dogs who are good with everyone, including children.

But Mom has found another niche – therapy dogs.

Around Christmastime 12 years ago, a friend of my mom's had a stroke and was at Stella Maris for rehab. Vicky lived in Delta, Pa., and her husband was a Baltimore City fireman, leaving him little time to go home and get the dogs to visit Vicky during her recovery.

So my mom brought one of hers, Liesl. Vicky loved it, but so did other patients and residents at Stella.

"When Vicky left, I stayed," Mom said.

And she's been there just about every Thursday since.

There have been two Stella Maris dog shows and even a wedding.

Dressed in their finest tuxedo and wedding dress, Oskar and Liesl got "married" in a ceremony officiated by a Catholic priest. The event including a soloist from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, rings and a wedding cake.

At holidays, the dogs are dress appropriately.

Sounds a little much, but the residents and patients love it. I've been on a few visits with her and I just see their eyes and faces light up when one of the dogs comes into their rooms. (It's not really my mom they're eager to see. And they're more interested in the dogs than the grandkids when they go for a visit.)

They pet the dogs and tell stories of their own pets. It's a bright spot for them in an otherwise rather dull day.

She's working with her fifth and sixth therapy dogs, Tommy and Tressa. Her others were Liesl, Oskar, Hanna and Tina.

Most of the Stella residents love dogs, and miss theirs. Because my mom starts bringing them when they're puppies, the residents feel like they're part of the dogs' lives and enjoy hearing about their obedience and conformation shows and want to see their pictures and prizes.

Why does she go?

"To give back. Because the dogs have always been so important to me, and it's really a gift to be able to share something you love with other people," she said.

I love that my mom does this with her dogs. You can tell she enjoys it but what's more important is the people she visits do, too. What a great way for her to help others.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. I love you.