By Philip Hosmer

When Steve Pilara and his dog Buster were walking in their neighborhood, they came upon a mother with a young boy that made them pause. The boy had Down’s Syndrome and was staring intently at Buster. The mother was nervous and reticent because of previous negative experiences between her son and dogs.

But the way her son was gazing at Buster, who returned the look with his own eager, playful expression, convinced her to let her son reach out to Buster. The two then became fast friends and played for 20 minutes, and the mother was left in tears—-of joy.

“I was so moved by the experience, that I thought it would be good to try to do this some more,” says Steve Steve, board member and volunteer for Pets on Wheels. I heard about Pets on Wheels from a local pet store, and Buster and I have been involved for three years now.”

Steve and Buster visit Anne Arundel Medical Center and Pikesville Middle School regularly, and they both find it rewarding.

“It’s great to bring so much joy to another person, and Buster has so much fun, when he’s happy, I’m happy,” Steve, a resident of Beverly Beach, Md. says. “Being able to make a difference in the community is very rewarding.

Steve recalls visiting a young girl in a hospital who had trouble sleeping because of all the noises near her room. She laid down with Buster on a sofa near her bed, and within five minutes she was sound asleep and continuing sleeping after they left the room.

In another instance, Steve visited a hospital patient who was in severe pain. After playing with Buster for 15 minutes, a nurse came in to deliver his pain medication. The man told the nurse he felt OK and didn’t need the medication.

After three years, Steve is still amazed by the connections Buster and he make with patients and also with each other.

“As close as you think you are to your dog, doing therapy work brings you even closer,” he says. You create a deeper bond that you don’t even fathom is possible.”