CORNELIUS NC: It was a beautiful, sunny day in Jetton Park when Delilah, the therapy dog met senior, Maureen Deppen. Delilah is a specially trained dog who is certified to be calm and gentle with children and the elderly. At 4 years old, she is a purebred Airedale Terrier. Long considered the “King of Terriers” (or the Queen in Delilah’s case), the Airedale is the largest of the Terrier breeds. She came from Coldstream Kennel in Virginia. Her AKC registered name is Little Ray of Sunshine—which is particularly appropriate for Delilah because of all of the happiness she brings into people’s lives.
Bringing joy back into people’s lives
“I recently lost my dog of 17 years.”
—Maureen Deppen, Senior
I asked my friend, Maureen Deppen, to join us for this interview. She was feeling sad because her dog, Patches, a mixed breed Chihuahua, had recently died. He had been her companion for 17 years. Delilah was happy to meet Maureen. Maureen was delighted to meet Delilah.
The other half of this delightful pair
Mike Riley, President/Owner of Homewatch Caregivers, is Delilah’s owner. His original occupation was in supply chain logistics. Born in Columbus, OH and having spent time in Atlanta, Hilton Head, and St. Louis, Mike wanted to be closer to his family who were located near Charlotte. About a year ago, he had the opportunity to purchase the Charlotte location of Homewatch Caregivers. He said, “This opportunity checked all the boxes for me.”
His company provides in-home, non-medical care. Their staff of over 125 employees help people with the daily activities that allow them to stay in their homes. They provide companionship and assistance primarily for seniors.
Visiting nursing homes and care centers
In addition to running his company, Riley and Delilah volunteer about 15 hours per week visiting the residents of nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities, independent care centers, and hospice and palliative care centers.
“It’s a real pleasure to give back to the community we work in. We both enjoy bringing smiles to people’s faces.”
—Mike Riley with Delilah, his therapy dog
Required training for a therapy dog
Riley said that both the handler and the dog are certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Handler training lasts about 3 months. Training for the dog is a life-long process. Skills the dog must learn are: basic obedience, walking on a leash, and the proper temperament. No growling is allowed. The dog must be good with adults, children, and other dogs.
When asked why he does it
“It warms your spirit to see how people get excited to see Delilah.”
—Mike Riley, Delilah’s owner