Czar allows provider to give back

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ROME, Ga. - He's arguably the most popular staffer at Clear Choice Oxygen and Medical Supply, and he's known to be a soft touch for local nursing home residents.
"He" is Czar, an 18-month-old, 80-pound Akita owned by company president Larry Szeliga and his wife, Stephanie Hammond. He provides some low-key therapy for local patients.
"I just picture myself someday in a nursing home unable to pet an animal," said Hammond, an animal lover whose personal menagerie includes two cats and a bird. "It's just something I've always wanted to do."
A good therapy dog needs basic obedience training, the ability to follow commands and up-to-date shots. Otherwise, it just boils down to personality.
Czar and Hammond visit two local nursing homes every Friday, spending about an hour at each.
"We know who's interested and who's not," said Hammond. "Some don't want anything to do with Czar and want to talk to me. Some don't want anything to do with me."
There is no fee for Czar's visits, and the company doesn't pass out literature or make sales pitches. Czar and his owners enjoy the visits as much as the patients.
"Now, if only I could get him to sell products," Szeliga mused.