Kathy Hobson, a counseling services coordinator in the Department of Oral Health Sciences, received a Volunteer Service Award during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday commemoration at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center on Jan. 12.
Hobson was honored for her volunteer work with her dog, Mason, in animal-assisted therapy at the UW Medical Center and other locations. She and Mason have also volunteered at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and the Seattle Veterans Administration Medical Center.
In addition, for the last five years, Hobson has conducted reading programs with Mason at libraries in the Puget Sound-area cities of Arlington and Stanwood. One is called Waggin’ Tales and the other is Tales to Tails.
At Children’s, she and Mason visit patients including those with cancer and those being treated in the emergency room, where Mason or other therapy dogs are often the first thing children see when they arrive.
At Ronald McDonald House, they offer comfort to parents and siblings of youngsters being treated at Children’s. “Parents will sit there for hours just releasing stress from what they are going through,” Hobson said.
At the VA hospital, she said, “we visit people who have been there for many years, and most will never be released. Many have no one to visit them, so Mason really brightens their day.”
At the UW Medical Center, the two visit patients who have just had surgery. “Many are away from family and their own pets and we cheer them up,” Hobson said. “We are also trained to assist the physical therapist in having patients move their hand or feet.”
The annual service awards, given to individuals and groups from each of the UW Health Sciences schools, honor recipients who exemplify Dr. King’s principles through:
- Commitment to addressing community needs, particularly communities of color and low income
- Development and implementation of significant programs to improve the human condition
- Outstanding efforts to protect and empower all individuals
“Kathy’s compassionate, caring work with Mason does great credit to our school and the University of Washington,” said Dean Joel Berg. “She’s a wonderful choice to receive this honor as we reflect on the ideals that Dr. King exemplified.”