When Diane Weber’s nest emptied, her grown children got her a companion to keep her company, and ever since, Cheeto has been the apple of her mom’s eye.
“She’s the love of my life,” Weber told the folks at USA Today, laughing. “The kids all play second to her.”
The tiny Yorkshire terrier weighs just eight pounds, but she’s a powerhouse of personality. The kids in Weber’s neighborhood adored her, and over the first few years of her life, Cheeto became quite accustomed to being around young children. It was a vital early education that likely helped her when Weber decided to have Cheeto trained as a therapy dog. Since her certification, she has helped veterans and kids, but she is truly beloved at her favorite place: Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Her tiny stature makes her an ideal therapy dog for bed sitting! Even children confined there can enjoy her company, cuddling and petting and getting a few canine kisses. She is trained to lick hands only, never faces. Cheeto and Weber visit the hospital roughly two hours a day, twice a week.
Patients aren’t the only ones to benefit from Cheeto’s company, of course. Staffers delight in seeing her, too. Weber recalled the time a doctor stopped her as they were on their way to see the children. “He said, ‘Can you please come with me?’” He led them into a doctors’ lounge with a dozen or so occupants and said, “These people all need therapy.” So Weber set Cheeto on the floor and the doctors sat down with her for some much-needed stress relief.
Therapy dogs really help everyone they come in contact with in this respect. And of course, those in a hospital environment are generally good candidates for stress. Cheeto brings lots of joy to the children, some of whom face grave illnesses.
“Pet therapy is a powerful way to help get kids through tough things,” said Volunteer Services Supervisor Megan Hughes. “When a dog visits, the mood changes. Kids start to relax. You can see the anxiety drop away.”