Meet Buddy Cutler & Millie!
Spend a little time with Buddy, and you quickly learn how lucky WAGS is to have him as a member. This self-effacing gentleman is much more comfortable getting you to talk about yourself than bragging on himself, a talent that surely is useful when he’s making visits for WAGS. Yet despite his quiet demeanor, his passion for children and dogs showed through clearly during our chat.
Buddy is a man who is not afraid of long-term commitment. He has been an avid dog lover since he and his wife Carol adopted their first dog 54 years ago. They passed this predilection on to their two daughters, who also are passionate about dogs. Like most parents, he learns from his children. He found out about pet therapy from his daughter Alice who currently resides in Los Angeles and provides pet therapy with her dog Freddy, named for Fred Astaire. She started pet therapy with her first dog, Betty White, as a team with Love on 4 Paws, despite Betty being a tripod dog. His daughter loves this work, and was an inspiration to him to try it out.
After finding WAGS on Google, Buddy and Millie joined up. Millie is a GRAAND rescue golden retriever/German short haired pointer/boxer mix. At age 10, she is still spry and ready to go to work. Buddy and Millie are regulars at Kidz Club, Frayser Elementary and Norton Children's Hospital.
Kidz Club is a day care for children with medical complexities. Very few of the kids have dogs or other pets, so Millie is very important to them. And she is equally important to the nurses and other staff members who come to greet her at the start of every visit. Although Covid has slowed down visits, they have been creative and had outdoor meetings on nice days.
Frayser Elementary offers another opportunity for Millie to love and be loved by children. Buddy and Millie meet with children in all grades, including young readers. He fondly remembers one fourth grader who was painfully shy. She was completely terrified to read in front of the class. But enter Millie and Buddy, and the girl quickly gained confidence. Between the reading to Millie and the conversations with Buddy, she came out of her shell. Buddy says he is the “straight man to Millie’s comedic act” which also helps put the kids at ease.
Why would someone who reached that pinnacle of life (retirement!) choose to take on WAGS work? Buddy says what keeps him going back is seeing the pleasure the children have in interacting with Millie. Just seeing her makes them enthusiastic. And – “It’s fun!”
He is a firm believer in the therapeutic value of pet therapy. He likes to end each day on the couch with Millie. She starts with her head in his lap as he reads, and he says he can feel his blood pressure and heart rate come down as he pets her. Then, being a real dog, she turns and presents her back end for a good rub! This quiet time with Millie is one of the best parts of the day. He feels one of the things WAGS gives is this same therapeutic benefit to those not lucky enough to have a dog. For the kids, excited by or calmed by Millie, this interaction is very important.
We all have our “public face”. Buddy believes that interactions with a dog helps break down the barriers we unconsciously put up, so we open up and show our true selves. And dogs are not judgmental - they love us no matter who we are (as long as we are not abusive).
Buddy finds working with WAGS has allowed his nurturing side to grow. Having spent fifty years as a practicing lawyer, while he had sympathy for his clients, it was often a confrontational environment as lawyers for both sides struggled to win the most for their clients. WAGS allows him to do work that is “in the moment” and enjoy time without looking to the next deadline. It helps him give himself permission to take some down time and find pleasure in small interactions.
Like many WAGGERS, Buddy wears several hats. In addition to being part of an Ambassador Team, Buddy is one of your Members at Large. He encourages you to contact him if you have any concerns or questions that you would like addressed by the leadership (firstname.lastname@example.org). Since joining WAGS and going to Board meetings, he has been very impressed with how dedicated the officers are and how seriously they focus on getting things right. He also checks the WAGS voicemail [(502) 562-WAGS (9247)] and directs messages to the appropriate person to respond. And you can reach him there. He has also just taken on the role of Medical Facilities Coordinator. If you and your pet are looking for a good fit for visits at a medical facility, contact him and he will help find the right match.
As with all things WAGS, these jobs often give an opportunity to make a real difference. Recently Buddy received a call from a Hosparus worker, who was seeking a pet therapy visit for a patient in palliative care. Buddy contacted Sharon McDermott, who went the very next day to visit the woman at Baptist Health and grant her dying wish. As he points out, you never know when just answering the phone can help you make a difference in someone’s life.
When he’s not working as a WAGGER, you can find Buddy with his beloved five-year-old granddaughter Daelyn and her family’s dog Gonzo. Yes, this love of dogs has passed down to yet another generation! Living only a mile away, he and Carol get the opportunity to attend Suzuki violin recitals and soccer games. And there is always time for a tennis game with friends!
I thoroughly enjoyed my chat with Buddy and encourage you to get to know him better. He has so much to share with us all!