Who Let the Dogs In? 

Therapy Dogs in Bedford Having an Impact

Sometimes the best therapy comes with four paws and a tail.   After Covid restrictions were lifted, the Council on Aging’s two therapy dogs are back, delivering their unique brand of therapy.

Meet Fenway the Golden Retriever and his handler Trish Anderson and Abigail the Black Lab and her handler Kyoko Weissman, two therapy dogs making the rounds at the COA once again.

Here’s what Alison Cservenschi, the director of the COA said. “I reached out to therapy dog groups when I first started in 2015 as I have seen the benefits and enjoyment of pet therapy in the past through the Nature Connection of Concord.  My philosophy on a COA is that it should be full of life. Animals, plants, children, laughter, learning and sharing etc. With very little planning, set up or preparation on the part of the COA,  having regularly scheduled therapy dog visits brings us an easy and unique opportunity for older people to socialize with the handler, each other, and the trained dog. For the folks attending, there is a calming factor to an animal visit. It is something the group who participate looks forward to. There is so much joy around the table when the dog arrives, and inquires as to where the dog is if they miss a day! Many of our older residents have owned pets in the past and may no longer be able to manage the care of a pet.  Some still have pets and enjoy sharing their stories. It is a joy to watch each time and hear the stories of pets of the past. The benefits to residents are many without the responsibility of actually owning the pet themselves.

“Each of the dogs has their own unique personality. Some like to put their head in your lap. Some sit next to you and lean on your leg. Others sit quietly and look into your eyes so lovingly. Some offer little kisses. All our dogs enjoy the interactions from loving people, but you can also see they are engaged with their handler through their training. They are working dogs when they arrive. They are a pleasure to have around and become part of the COA family. The handlers are also as unique as their dog. Residents enjoy asking all and any questions about the dog and the handler themselves. A special relationship is built through the dog while enjoying the visit.”


I chatted with Tricia Anderson, Fenway’s Handler, about how she got involved with making Fenway a therapy dog.  She said Fenway is actually their third Golden Retriever and she knew she wanted to have a therapy dog.   Tricia wanted to bring Fenway to Carlton Willard, where her mom lives.  She asked the breeder which dog would be best suited.  Tricia thought the most mellow dog would be best, but the breeder actually said the right temperament is somewhere in the middle between the most mellow and the most rambunctious.  

The process of becoming a therapy dog starts with basic puppy training and then obedience training.  Anderson took Fenway to the Dog Star Activity Center in Acton.  After the basic training Fenway was certified by Therapy Dogs International which provides contracts and insurance for the dogs and the handlers.

With contracts in place she started taking Fenway to the  Council on Aging; later the town expanded the contract to include all divisions of the Health and Human Services Department.  She has brought him to a Covid vaccine clinic for children and is working on getting him covered to visit schools.

She says it’s such a win-win. “The dogs are happy, the people are happy, which makes me happy.”


Kyoko Weissman, Abigail’s handler, said she started visiting the COA in March of this year.  Abigail also visits the memory care unit at the Bright View Concord River on a weekly basis.  They also

attended a stress relief event at BU during their final exams.  

Kyoko goes on to say, “ I always ask people if they want to say hello to Abigail before approaching.  Abigail is a mood maker and she makes everyone smile.  Some people give her belly rubs.  Some people talk about their own dog(s) while petting Abigail.  Some people just smile at her from a distance.” She continues that she has the feeling Abigail is happy to have a job and feels a sense of purpose. I miss my parents (they live in Japan) and I feel a connection with the community when I visit COA with Abigail.  They are so kind and fun loving people.”

Kyoko also is a volunteer puppy raiser for “Canine Companions” and Abigail was released from the program due to her medical condition.  I adopted her and trained with her to become a therapy dog team for “Pets and People foundation.” 

In need of a little therapy yourself?  Check out the COA website to see when the next visit is.



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