Michele Thames and her dog, Pecos, will march in Monday’s Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C., with the Canine Companions for Independence organization, which trained Pecos.

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Suffolk woman and her therapy pooch head to inauguration

Published 8:02pm Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Suffolk woman and her dog will be among the participants in Monday’s Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.

Michele Thames, who is the interim executive director at the Suffolk Humane Society, will march with her yellow lab Pecos and the Canine Companions for Independence, which trained Pecos to be a therapy dog.

“I think it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Thames said.

Most of the dogs trained by the organization help their owners cope with various disabilities. But Thames herself doesn’t have a disability — rather, she takes Pecos to work.

Thames is a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, which means she interviews children who have made allegations of abuse or neglect. Pecos helps the process by giving children a calming presence during a difficult situation, Thames said.

“When kids come to the center, it’s not for any fun reason,” she said. “Pecos calms them down. It’s something else to focus their attention on, not just the stress and anxiety of being here.”

Thames introduced the idea a couple years ago to hospital management, who were supportive. Therapy dogs already worked elsewhere in the hospital, visiting kids and greeting visitors in the waiting room.

“The hospital’s always been supportive of thinking outside the box to help kids,” Thames said.

She got Pecos in November 2011 after an application process with Canine Companions for Independence. He was chosen specifically for the job for his ability to sit or lie calmly, on command, and stay that way for hours at a time.

On Monday, however, Pecos will be walking through the streets of the capital for about two hours along the 1.5-mile parade route.

More than 2,800 organizations applied to participate in the parade, and only 60 organizations were chosen, including marching bands and Boy Scout troops.

Canine Companions for Independence sent out applications to its participants, and Thames and Pecos were chosen. They will be among 135 pairs of pooches and their people following President Barack Obama and his family, who will lead the parade after the swearing-in and inaugural address and then watch from a reviewing stand.

“I think it’s going to be cool,” Thames said. “I know it’s going to be cold.”

The inaugural ceremonies will be televised on all news channels. For more information about the ceremonies, visit www.2013pic.org.

For more information about the Canine Companions for Independence organization, visit www.cci.org.

 

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