As if training for a marathon was not enough already, one Needham resident is also teaching her dog to help kids in hospitals.
That dog is Ryder, who is completing training for the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen program with the help of Needhamite Ananda Weafer, who is running for Boston Children's Hospital's Miles for Miracles program.
Weafer's children are both patients at Boston Children's Hospital, however Miles for Miracles has also paired her with a young lady from Foxborough, 10-year-old Kayla Wilson. According to a Foxboro Reporter story, the two bonded over a common love for Golden Retrievers.
In an e-mail, Weafer said:
Recently, my family obtained a wonderful golden puppy, named Ryder, so I showed her some pictures of him and her face just lit up. I've always loved that goldens make for wonderful therapy dogs and seeing that smile made me think: Kayla's mother told me that Kayla has had a difficult time receiving treatments--and in learning this, I thought why not train Ryder for Canine Good Citizen Certification so I can take him to hospitals to help children going through tough treatments?
For more information, or to donate, to Ananda Weafer's run, visit her donation page.
Patch sent a few questions for Weafer about the training experiences, who agreed to an e-mail interview. Below is that interview:
Patch: How is training going? Are you feeling confident about the full 26.2 miles, or do you still have some more work to do?
Ananda Weafer: Yes, as long as I stay healthy, I feel confident that I will run 26.2 miles on April 15! The coaches for the Miles for Miracles Team provide us with motivational tools, nutritional advice, fueling and recovery suggestions, tips for training and a training schedule. I don’t know if I could have made it this far without my team and coaches!
Sticking to the schedule, I run an average of 5 miles per day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then on Saturdays, we have a team long run. Last week we ran 15 miles and next week we will run 17. Next week’s run will be my longest ever! And before a few months ago, my longest run ever was 6 miles! So I do have a lot more training to do, but since I’ve come so far already, I feel great.
Are you running any half-marathons or other races to get prepared?
AW: I don’t have any half marathons planned, but I do plan to schedule some longer races this summer so I don’t go through a “running hangover”. Although I do plan to run the Green’s Field 5K race in Needham with my family.
How did you meet Kayla, or get partnered up with her?
AW: Miles for Miracles has a patient/partner program. The program is one of my favorite benefits of being a member of the team. I was paired up with Kayla at random but I believe it was fate. She reminds me of me when I was her age. She’s shy, loves golden retrievers, plays soccer. We met at the Miles for Miracles Kick off party at Kings in Dedham.
Kayla’s mom and I instantly clicked with a mutual feeling of admiration for each other. She seemed to admire the fact that I was running the marathon and I felt in awe of everything she and Kayla had been through and the strength and bond that they share because of it.
Kayla and Eileen plan to set up a water stop of one of our upcoming long runs. I can’t wait to see them during one of my long runs!
Was there a moment where the plan crystalized for you? That is, did you have a moment where you knew you needed to, or wanted to, run this marathon for Boston Children's?
AW: When I decided to apply for charity teams, I was advised to apply for the smaller, more obscure charities because the big ones were really hard to get accepted to. But when I read through the list of charities, Children’s was the charity I had the most affiliation with. As I mentioned, both of my children are patients there. I only applied to Miles for Miracles—and no other teams. It’s a big team with LOTS of applicants.
I think part of me was still afraid of running a marathon so I thought if I don’t get on the team, I’m off the hook! But when I got the call that I was accepted on the Miles for Miracles team, the fear left and pride and excitement overcame me. I’m honored to be a part of this team.
Is getting Ryder certified as a canine good citizen a complex process? How is the training going?
AW: It’s not complex, but I do have to devote a lot of time to it. We attend a training class once per week. There are 3-4 training levels and we’re about to graduate level 1.
Ryder is such a sweet dog, but not the quickest learner! He’d rather sit on the couch next to me over training, even though I use cheese as rewards! Ryder is not a “trick dog”—he probably will never learn to fetch the newspaper, but he will lay his head on a child’s lap who may be having a tough day.
The certification is merely a piece of paper that shows the hospital that he is trained and trusted. His amazing ability to show love and patience is what will make him a great therapy dog.