Zippy, a French bulldog, was excited as we drove through the beautiful grounds of the community center where the day camp was in session. Two large areas were blocked off from cars, and I had to park some distance away from the camp so I put the little dog into his cart and off we went to find Camp Dream Street.

Camp Dream Street is a camp for children with cancer, blood disorders, and other often life-threatening illnesses sponsored by the Dream Street Foundation. The foundation supports camps in several locations throughout the United States. Although most of the camps are the sleep-away kind, Zippy and I were visiting a Dream Street day camp in New Jersey whose administrators appreciate the healing power of therapy dogs. They invite a number of dog and handler teams to the campus every day during the weeklong session.

Zippy, a survivor himself, was unable to walk when he was rescued. After undergoing back surgery, physical therapy, and acupuncture, he made a significant recovery and is now a certified therapy dog. The wheeled cart—some people call it a doggie wheelchair—supports his pelvis and abdomen when he has to walk a distance, making ambulation less stressful on his vulnerable back and hindquarters. A visit from a therapy dog with his own disability really heightens the experience for people with serious health problems.

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Camp Dream Street kids

The children at Camp Dream Street play with the therapy dogs, read to them, tell them their secrets, and help their handlers exercise them. Some youngsters even make that camp classic, the lanyard, for a favorite therapy dog. It is a mutually enjoyable form of therapy. And that is why we went to Camp Dream Street.