Terri Carruthers

Terri Carruthers brings Mr. Bandit, her Chiweenie, to visit with Red Cross volunteers and staff.

West Valley resident Terri Carruthers hands out Life Savers while visiting volunteers and staff at the American Red Cross Greater Phoenix Chapter’s office. She adopted this idea from a Red Cross tagline: together we can save a life.

She knows each person’s favorite flavors and leaves them on their desks if they aren’t there. Meanwhile, her therapy dog, Mr. Bandit, wanders the office, wagging his tail and bringing smiles to everyone he comes across.

Carruthers has volunteered with the Red Cross since 1998 as a morale booster, giving people an opportunity to get their minds off disaster relief and offering a moment of fun in what might be a stressful day.

Her first therapy dog for the Red Cross was Lady Lace, then ’Lil Bit volunteered with her for 14 years at the Red Cross offices and also helped disaster victims at shelters.

When Mr. Bandit, a Chiweenie, visits with Red Cross volunteers and staff, he provides a “quiet miracle.’’

“We hear computers clanking away and the phones ringing. Then Mr. Bandit comes over and he provides a peaceful moment to help the staff and volunteers know that they are cared about,” Carruthers said.

She has been training Miss Cuddles, a 10-pound terrier mix, to provide pet therapy, since she got her in October 2017. She will be joining Mr. Bandit soon.

“Miss Cuddles recently passed her Canine Good Citizen Test and is doing well with her training. Pet therapy dogs are professional. They are not coming to play. They are there to do a job,’’ Carruthers said.

Carruthers and Bandit don’t want to be an interruption, she said, but rather “an addition” to the work that’s being performed. “I’m glad to be a part of it,” she said. “And I’m glad they allow me to bring the dogs. We feel honored to help the Red Cross, in our special way.”

Carruthers has been volunteering with therapy dogs for the past 25 years at Banner University Medical Center where she continues to cheer up patients and staff.

“I saw a German shepherd with a Red Cross vest on a magazine cover and that’s when I decided to have Lady Lace volunteer to cheer up Red Cross workers,’’ she said.

Pet therapy provides many benefits to people of all ages.

“We help relieve stress and lessen loneliness, fear and anxiety. We listen to people’s stories. We provide a comforting presence and make people feel good and that someone cares,’’ she added.

For more information about volunteering, please call the Red Cross Greater Phoenix Chapter at 602-336-6660 or go to redcross.org/Phoenix.