Below is a reflection written by Michael Weinberg about his visits to the Long Beach VA Medical Center with his career change-turned-therapy dog, Ruby (GDB's Rhubarb). He visited the medical center in 2008 when he was 17; he's now 19 and a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
Long Beach VA Medical Center, a link into the past of some of America's finest heroes, is now home to the memories of therapy dogs standing beside such heroes in times of need. Untouched by the affects of war, in February 2008, I embarked on a trip through time with my therapy dog, Ruby, to the center, where I met veterans of different sizes, colors, backgrounds, and from different wars. The people I visited ranged from a young man in his 30s or 40s from Desert Storm to a man in his 60s from Vietnam. They could not express more delight than a stream of tears and a warm hug for Ruby's companionship. Lit up faces flooded the room with stories of courageous battles and passionate optimism for the future in contrast to weariness. In retrospect, I can proudly say that volunteering, in particular, therapy work, makes the lives of every veteran that much more special. For the time that a veteran is with a therapy dog, they can forget about the past and focus on the brighter future with a livelier outlook on life.