Connie’s Story

Around 1995, our founder, Connie Richards, was riding her horse with her two-year-old son sitting in front of her in the saddle. The horse got too close to a mailbox, and the mailbox ripped off the post and got stuck to her jeans. The horse took off at a full gallop. Being an experienced rider, Connie kept repeating to herself “the safest place is on the horse”, “the safest place is on the horse”. They galloped through a country road and then through a ditch because the horse was so frightened it was clearly not going to stop! The horse galloped up to a house with a wooden front porch. She saw the opportunity to get her son safely off the horse and onto the porch safely. The horse galloped on before she could dismount, knocking her backwards and causing her to fall off the horse backwards; she hit her head on the porch. She was unconscious for 20 minutes and taken by ambulance to the hospital where it took a surgeon 3.5 hours to stitch her head. The doctor was very clear that she was incredibly lucky to be alive.

Connie was immensely thankful that her son was unharmed, but this experience also ignited a fire in her heart. She began asking God: “What is my purpose in life, why am I still alive, when I really should not have survived that fall?” She knew that God doesn’t always answer immediately and instead she experienced that God permitted this question to swirl around her heart.

Later, her church, Bellaire United Methodist, was looking for different ministries to start — respite care, roses on the altar for new babies, etc. They called a meeting which Connie attended. She raised her hand and said “what about a pet therapy group?” It felt like it was a surreal experience as it was a sudden impulse that was clearly inspired by God.

We started training classes after that and formed a group of six founding members. A church member, who was a long-time volunteer at Memorial Hermann Southwest, asked if we could start with their hospital. The answer was a resounding “yes”! Soon, The Forum and Sheltering Arms were also visits. Connie fell in love with how pet therapy visits enriched the lives of the people we visited and knew immediately that pet therapy would be a good ministry.

Connie had found a new purpose in her life and had embraced a new life motto: “to touch as many people in a positive way so that they feel compelled to pay it forward”. Members of Faithful Paws for the past 25 years and continuing today heartily agree that Connie has shown us how to live with purpose. Each member honors Connie’s motto with every pet therapy visit made, and we do so with love and admiration for our founder.

Connie’s Favorite Story:

“I was visiting a hospital and came across a room where I knew someone was clearly very ill. When I entered the room and asked if they would like my Sheltie, Ruthie, on the bed with them, a weak voice said “yes!” I placed Ruthie in the crook of the patient’s arms, and the dog immediately put her head over the lady’s chest, which was an unusual thing for Ruthie to do! At that point, I was quiet and watched my dog having a special moment, perhaps a silent conversation with the patient. After about 10 minutes, the patient looked at me and said “I don’t know if I have 2 months, 2 weeks or 2 days to live. You see, I have brain cancer.” I sat there in silence and watched my dog do her pet therapy work. This is why I continue to do what I do. I’m so grateful to that patient for the encouragement and to my Sheltie for knowing exactly what to say!”