What do a clown, a dog, and a pediatric dentist have in common? The ability to help children! (Dr. (Art) Rabitz and his therapy dog, Missy, do just that each week at Morgan Autism Center). For 42 years, Dr. Art Rabitz was a pediatric dentist in San Jose and once he retired, he needed a new endeavor to keep him occupied.
Dr. Rabitz has always worked well with kids, so the decision to become a therapy clown was easy. Over the last 10 years, he has been performing magic tricks and clowning around while visiting children and other patients at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose and the Ronald McDonald house in Palo Alto. When Art walks into their rooms with his bright red nose and big smile, patients forget for a moment what they are going through and can’t help but smile and chuckle at Art. Those smiles keep Art going and are why he loves what he does.
A few years ago, his dog passed away and Art was looking to get a new dog. He got a therapy dog from the Dog Guide Center in San Rafael. Therapy Dogs are in high demand and the waiting list is long. But when the Center learned Art was a therapy clown working with children, it only took two days to receive a sweet black Labrador named Missy. She passed the rigorous training required to navigate hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities providing affection and comfort to individuals that need it most.
“Missy makes people forget what they are going through.” Art explained. “She makes them feel good, relaxes them, and allows them to reboot their mind.” When Art visits Morgan Autism Center, students and clients enjoy visiting the gentle clown with the bright red hat and nose, but once they sit with Missy, he sort of fades away into the background and he lets Missy do her job, which is to bring calmness and smiles to those who engage with her.
Adult client, Jill, is a big fan of Missy, and dogs in general. On a recent visit, Jill said, “Missy is a beautiful dog and she helps me relax.” We all feel the same way, Jill.
Dr. Rabitz still gets excited to go out with her into the community. Both are empathetic and kind which makes them a great pair for the benefit of others.
Written by Nicole Ferguson