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Celebrating Our People

Meet Lucy & Melanie: A Compassionate Canine & Her Big-Hearted Pet Parent

Lucy, the therapy dog, enriches the lives of others

Meet Lucy & Melanie: A Compassionate Canine & Her Big-Hearted Pet Parent

Melanie Sellers’ father was a doctor. Once, when she visited him at work, one of his patients was there with his interpreter and a dog—a Labrador retriever.


“She was so calm. She just stayed there with him. I was touched,” Melanie says.


And in the days after 9/11, the Cadence Bank associate heard a moving story about a Labrador who guided her blind owner to safety out of one of the Twin Towers. The man’s instinct was to go up the stairs, because he thought it would be hotter beneath him.


“But the dog kept pulling him down, down, so … he just kept following the dog through the smoke, and soon he was outside,” Melanie remembers.


The dog’s name was Roselle, and the man whose life she saved is Michael Hingson, who had been working in the north tower. (A year later, Hingson wrote a book with Susy Flory, called “Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust.”)


It made perfect sense that when Melanie decided she wanted to give back to her community, she would get a Labrador, and that the two of them would go into pet therapy.


Bringing smiles & wags


Meet Lucy & Melanie: A Compassionate Canine & Her Big-Hearted Pet Parent

Once a month for the last year, she and Lucy have visited the residents of Brookdale Senior Living Solutions in Destin, Florida, bringing smiles and wags to anyone who needs them.


“The people who work there say they know when the day is coming because the residents just get happier,” Melanie says.


Melanie has been a residential appraisal review officer at Cadence Bank for about a year. Lucy is an official Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and a certified AKC Therapy Dog. Together they are members of The Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, Inc., a national nonprofit that qualifies dogs and their owners as therapy dog teams. On visits to Brookwood the dog always wears her bright red vest, which says, “Therapy dog. Please pet me.”


The two walk around the building, spend some time visiting residents in assisted living and in the lobby, and sometimes go back to a wing where people are bedridden. Part of the visit is determined, Melanie says, “Where Lucy thinks people need her.” She’ll go back and visit a second time with those who call her, patting their hands on their legs to encourage the large black dog to come back to them.


More than a vest


There is more to being a therapy dog than obedience classes and a cute dog vest. In addition to becoming a CGC, a dog must adapt to different people and different circumstances, following her owner’s instructions even in the midst of a group of people. The dog learns to sit until told not to sit, for instance. In the therapy dog test, food is dropped on the floor and the dog must obey a command to “leave it,” because residents might drop food or pills on the floor. And there’s something else, too.


“A lot of dogs are skittish around wheelchairs; they think they’re going to roll over their feet. Canes can look like a stick. A dog has to become accustomed to the elderly moving around with canes, walkers and wheelchairs.”


Melanie and Lucy have done some school visits, too; principals will sometimes bring therapy dogs in around exam time, to help settle and calm the students. Medical studies have shown that petting and interacting with dogs and experiencing the nonjudgmental love they give lowers a person’s blood pressure, eases loneliness and stress, and can reduce symptoms of depression.


Love & appreciation


All that is important, but it is the comments from the Brookwood residents that mean the most to Melanie.


“I hear, ‘Thank you so much, I had dogs when I was young,’ or ‘I really appreciate you bringing them,’” Melanie says. “There is a survivor of Hiroshima there who had dogs all the time.


“It’s really all just to see the smiles on their faces.”


Sometimes, though, it’s even a little more than that. Tish Griffin, the Clare Bridge (and Brookwood) resident program coordinator, says Brookwood is “deeply grateful” for Melanie and Lucy.


“Yesterday one of our residents was passing away and was surrounded by her adult children,” Tish said. “Lucy went into the apartment where they were all gathered, and brought such happiness and peace.


“It was very powerful to experience the relationship between people grieving, and even the resident who was passing, to feel such love.”


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Cadence Bank is proud of our associates and their commitment to their communities. We know that nothing is more powerful than bringing together a diverse group of passionate professionals who want to make a difference. Learn more about our mission, vision and values.

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