Everyone's best friend

November 15, 2016
Our therapy dog, Bogey, retired today after almost seven years
John petting therapy dog Bogey

One of the most difficult parts of being away from home is leaving behind a beloved pet. For almost seven years, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Bogey has helped fill that void for families staying at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Toronto.

Now 13 years old, Bogey and his guardian, Harry Kitamura, retired today from volunteering at RMHC Toronto. They had been coming to the House every Tuesday since March 2010 to spend time with seriously ill children and their families. It’s a standing date they both looked forward to every week.

“We’ve really enjoyed coming to see the kids,” says Harry. “Seeing their smiles and the difference Bogey makes in their moods makes me really believe in this program. It’s rewarding to see kids waiting for Bogey before we even arrive.”

Bogey’s first experiences as a therapy dog were working with seniors but, through the organization Therapeutic Paws of Canada, he and Harry were introduced to RMHC Toronto. Bogey was tested to see if he had the right temperament to work with children. He was a natural.

“Bogey really likes kids, especially younger ones,” says Harry. “He seems to recognize when children are very young and which children have health problems, because he’s extra tender with them.”

Candice Gurwitz, family services manager at RMHC Toronto, still recalls Harry and Bogey showing up on their first day with matching vests and a palpable sense of excitement. She teamed them up with a new House volunteer, Del Paterson, to give them an extra set of hands, and they became fast friends. The three of them have made an indelible impact on families.

Marlow Ploughman, Del Paterson, Harry Kitamura and Bogey

“When you’re missing home, family and friends, having an animal to comfort you is very therapeutic,” says Candice. “Bogey brought such happiness to families here, and Harry has the ability to warm up a room. We’re really going to miss them.”

Bogey’s retirement plans include long walks and lots of naps, and we’re certain that he’s earned it.

Thanks Harry and Bogey.