Girls happily reading their books - at Orchard Place Des Moines

Orchard Place Awards Elaine Smith 2019 Volunteer of the Year

Orchard Place 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award

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Pictured: Elaine Smith, Apollo and Dan Smith 

If dog is a man’s best friend, Elaine Smith and her dog Apollo are certainly two ‘best friends’ of the kids at Orchard Place.  For the past seven years, Elaine and Apollo have been providing pet therapy, bringing big smiles to kids and staff.

Elaine and Apollo divide their time between their home on Des Moines Southside and their Indianola farm where Apollo, Herc, and Bailia get to spend time together doing dog things like rolling in smelly things, chasing deer and digging for moles.

Elaine graduated from Iowa State University and received her master’s in Vocational Rehabilitation from Drake University.  She retired from the 5th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, where she worked as a community treatment coordinator working with probation and parolees court-ordered to Domestic Abuse treatment.  Elaine helped develop Iowa's Domestic Abuse program called ACTV (pronounced Active) Achieving Change Through Value-based behavior and facilitated groups of men as they learned new skills managing conflict in relationships.

Elaine adopted Apollo, a border  collie lab, when he was six weeks old and began training classes shortly after. Initially, the classes were a fun way for them to bond, but after encouragement from the training instructor, they moved to more advanced training required for pet therapy work.  Apollo has earned his AKC Good Citizens Award, AKC therapy dog certificate, and AKC Therapy dog advanced.   Elaine and Apollo are certified as an Animal Assisted Therapy team by Bright and Beautiful therapy dogs International.  They have been a team for seven years, the last six at Orchard Place.  Apollo meets with residents and loves walks around campus, playing fetch and laying around, getting loved by all the great kids who come to see him.

While they are at Orchard Place, Elaine and Apollo hear lots of stories about the kids' pets at home, how much they miss them, and how spending time with Apollo helps.  One of the many things Orchard Place kids tell Apollo is, "I really needed this today" and "This makes a bad day so much better." Apollo is happy to give the kids a picture of himself and a bio.  You will see many of these pictures posted in the rooms at Orchard Place.