For Brian, volunteering with his pup Magnus the Therapy Dog is a way to bring moments of normalcy to critically and terminally ill children.

In this 69th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I talk with Brian Benson about his experiences volunteering through the Good Dog Foundation in New York with his yellow labrador Magnus the Therapy Dog. Having spent a significant portion of his own childhood in hospitals, Brian has a heart for helping terminally and critically ill children.

Once the pandemic hit, Brian and his family made the decision to continue to help bring joy to others by starting an Instagram account for Magnus. While they have returned to visiting hospitals, they also continue to impact others online through their social media accounts.

If you’re ready to learn more about Brian and Magnus’ experiences, let’s dive in:

In this episode, we discuss …

  • Why Magnus initially joined Brian’s family.
  • How Brian’s experiences with hospitals have fueled his passion to volunteer.
  • What it’s been like to further their impact online.

Key moments you won’t want to miss:

Note that the timecodes match the video, not the podcast.

  • [00:01:15] Brian shares that Magnus, who is turning seven in April, originally joined their family as a pet to help her daughter with her daily injections for arthritis.
  • [00:02:05] Brian talks about how Magnus has had innate empathy since day once and how his natural ability to comfort made Brian want to share Magnus with others.
  • [00:03:32] Brian shares how Magnus would help relieve stress for his coworkers when he brought him to work with him.
  • [00:04:49] Brian and Magnus focus mainly on hospitals and in the hospitals they visit mostly children and adults who are terminally and critically ill. They’ve also gone to schools for children with emotional issues and learning disabilities, nursing homes and community crisis centers.
  • [00:06:21] Brian shares a story from his first visit with Magnus as a Therapy Dog team where they were able to bring a smile to someone who hadn’t smiled in weeks and only had days left to live.
  • [00:08:24] Brian shares how his job as a visual effects artist combined with the COVID-19 lockdown led to him starting an Instagram account for Magnus. Unexpectedly, he a video of Brian and Magnus working out went viral. Now they’re on TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest as well. During Covid, it was what they  considered virtual therapy, while they couldn’t do in person visits, so they could still give back and pay it forward.
  • [00:11:14] Brian talks about how Magnus is also his service dog to help with his seizure disorder and how he has task trained Magnus to help facilitate Brian that medication didn’t or couldn’t perform properly to help with his condition. He also shares about his recent hospital visit and how having Magnus there was helpful and how it reminded him of his childhood hospital visits and motivation to help others with Magnus.
  • [00:13:40] We talk about what it’s like for Magnus to switch back and forth between his Therapy Dog and Service Dog hats as well as his primary job as family pet.
  • [00:15:07] Brian reminisces about training Magnus when he first joined their family as a career changed guide dog.
  • [00:16:34] We talk a bit about Magnus’ repertoire of tricks and how they contribute to his social media accounts.
  • [00:17:29] While Magnus’ favorite trick varies depending on where they are and what they’re doing, Brian likes kiss, hug and beg.
  • [00:17:49] Brian talks about how touch, face and close are helpful things he’s taught Magnus that they often utilize when on a therapy visit.
  • [00:18:50] We discuss vests and bandanas and why vests haven’t been a go-to for Brian and Magnus.
  • [00:19:37] Brian reveals how humbling it is for him when they are recognized while walking around. He mentions that they love it and always encourage people to come over and say hi if they recognize them because that’s why they do this—to meet people and just make them smile.
  • [00:20:47] Brian talks about how Magnus really loves meeting people and is a social butterfly.
  • [00:21:58] Magnus and Brian have a strong level of trust to where Magnus knows whatever Brian does with him, for him, to him, he always have the best intention in mind and that he will never hurt him.
  • [00:22:49] We briefly discuss Magnus’ upcoming golden birthday this year.
  • [00:23:23] Brian shares his advice for those who are intersested in becoing a therapy dog team based on their experience with the Good Dog Foundation.
  • [00:26:45] A pup in the comments asks Magnus if he wants to be her boyfriend and we find out that he actually already has a girlfriend named Phoebe.
  • [00:27:40] Brian closes us out by sharing how rewarding therapy work is and that if you think your dog is capable and you have the time to consider trying it out and giving back to people.

I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!

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Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.

Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.

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