Fluffy Friend

Old English Sheepdog befriends Harbor View House residents
By Shanna Thompson, Staff Writer
Originally published in More San Pedro and
Permission granted to reprint this article with photos by the Daily Breeze.
All photos by Steve McCrank, Staff Photographer

It is virtually impossible for Amy Myers to walk the halls of Harbor View House without being stopped several times along the way.

While the residents are friendly with her, it is Myers’ 95-pound Old English sheepdog who they are really drawn to. With his fluffy, white mop of a coat and lumbering gait, Skippy is a favorite friend among those who live at Harbor View House, which provides board and care for approximately 200 mentally ill residents.

“He gives pure unconditional love,” Myers said. “I’m grateful Skippy can come here and make people happy. He is a real friendly dog, like a politician.”

As the coordinator of the Living Museum Art Center at Harbor View, Myers began bringing Skippy with her on an occasional basis when she started as a volunteer about three years ago. The dog was an instant hit, and about a year ago the residents petitioned for Skippy to come every day when Myers transitioned into her current full-time position.

“When you are around him, you feel nice and happy even if you are depressed,” said James White, who resides in independent living provided by Harbor View and is the person who initiated the petition. “Skippy does that.”

Hesitant at first, Julie Skillington, program director of day rehabilitation, agreed to allow Harbor View’s four-legged staff member after Skippy graduated from sensitivity and good-canine training.

Since then, Skippy has become a fixture at Myers’ side in the art center wearing his red therapy dog vest and happily accepting biscuits, a scratch behind the ears and the occasional stolen crayon, which is a favorite illicit treat for the 12-year-old dog.

“The primary function isn’t therapy in the traditional sense,” Skillington said. “It is more that it feels good to the residents. The interaction is intrinsically rewarding for them.”

Myers said she has seen residents who frequent the studio find comfort in their artwork and Skippy’s company. Though as of yet, she said, she hasn’t been able to persuade anyone to make her dog the subject of their work.

“He makes me feel like a real artist,” said resident Daniel Robinson. “I love Skippy. He is my best friend.”