December's Hope Hero!

This month we have a very special Hope Hero! I can't wait to introduce you to BENJI!!

Benji works alongside his human, Annalisa Smithson, as a therapy dog! Even though he may be small, he is making a difference in the commmunity in big ways! Read the full interview below to get to get to know him and the extraordinary work he does! 

Also be sure to check out this site to learn more about where he works: Unleashed Counseling


1) How do you define Hope?
Hope is a feeling that I sense from so many of my clients when they first walk into my office. Oftentimes I smell sadness and anxiety too—and that’s okay. It’s normal. But if there’s even a tiny bit of hope mixed in, I know I can help.

2) What gives you Hope or inspires you?
The crackle of the potato chip bag gives me hope. I can hear it from across the office and I’m always hopeful you’ll share.

3) Can you tell us about a time you didn’t feel hopeful & what got you through it?
As you know, I’m a therapy dog. We’re built a special way and we never lose hope. But my therapy partner, Annalisa (she’s a human), sometimes feels that way. For example, she opened our therapy practice on January 2, 2020. Exactly 92 days later, our entire state shut down because of covid. I could tell she felt scared and confused. I went into snuggle overdrive. We snuggled every single day for, like, months. She started losing hope that Unleashed Counseling would survive. Luckily, I got her through it. And even though covid was awful, there was a silver lining. It helped a lot of people realize that it’s okay to ask for help. That’s part of the reason we have so many awesome clients now.

4) What is your favorite book?
The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell. I think every human who invites a dog into their home should read this book!

5) How about your favorite quote/verse/affirmation?
Unleash Your Authentic Self

6) What’s the last song you heard that made you sing along to it?
Best Friend by Saweetie (the clean version!)

7) Can you tell us about what you do in the community or for work?
I’m a therapy dog! My partner is a licensed professional counselor; and my clients are primarily adults working hard to overcome anxiety, depression, or addiction. If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know it can sometimes feel heavy in there. I help by lightening the mood. I snuggle, play, walk, do tricks, and pose for metaphors. All you have to do is look at me and you’ll feel a rush of oxytocin (that’s the love hormone), your heartbeat slows down, and you feel less anxious. Some people call it magic, but it’s really just the science of the human-animal bond.

8) What part of the work you do brings you the most fulfillment or joy?

9) When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a puppy, I lived in West Virginia with my mama and littermates. I thought I’d be with them forever, so it was confusing when I was brought to Pennsylvania. I never imagined that I’d become a working dog, but I love it. I have so much fun with my humans.

10) Who is/are your biggest role model(s) and why?
Magnus the Therapy Dog: He’s a social media star and he makes thousands of people smile every day.

11) What is a motto you live by or love?
Love Yourself Like Your Dog Loves You—Unconditionally!

12) What word did you find first in the Hope/Love logo?
I can’t read, but Annalisa saw the word “Hope”