Brasil is a Whippet. A medium-sized dog, Whippets are a versatile breed with an elegant appearance. A natural athlete used for racing early on, the breed was nicknamed "the poor man’s racehorse." Today’s Whippets are now sometimes referred to as “Velcro dogs” because of their friendly, gentle nature and because most love to stick close to their people. Whippets are particularly well adapted for human companionship and make excellent house dogs.
By early 2012, Brasil had volunteered more than 2,600 hours in schools and hospitals. He had been on television four times, including a feature by Diane Sawyer on ABC regarding the R.E.A.D.® program. On April 22, 2012, Brasil and his partner, Don Smith, won the American Whippet Club’s Willow award, for therapy dog of the year.
A Eucharistic minister, Don always carries a St. Francis of Assisi prayer in his pocket, and as director of the animal-assisted therapy program at Stamford (Connecticut) Hospital, he is very familiar with the countless ways therapy dogs help people. He became involved with animal therapy after his wife of 52 years passed away. He says that visits from therapy dogs was the one thing that could help relieve her depression during hospital stays in her last years.
As a way to repay the people who were a comfort to his wife, and to honor her memory, Don earned his animal-assisted therapy certification and ran the Delta Society program, “Healing Hounds.” Within 5 years, the program grew to include 63 dogs of all breeds, sizes, and shapes that visit children’s programs, rehabilitation centers, hospice, and more. In his words, “Where there is a need, there is a dog.”
Brasil’s gentle nature was a great comfort to a 103-year-old woman after she was transferred to a nursing home. At their first visit, Don noted a picture over her bed that was of a dog just like Brasil. She told him it was a wedding present from her husband 65 years ago. This woman had not walked in several years, but Don challenged her to walk with a walker. If she would, he promised to visit three times a week and they could walk with Brasil. She agreed, and they took regular walks for a year until she lapsed into a coma. At that time, Brasil visited and lay down with her for two hours a day until the day she died.