July 14, 2019
AIR Volunteer Spotlight:
Ellen Hirt and Fifi and Mabel
Ellen Hirt wanted to volunteer as a pet therapy team and realized she had a perfect candidate when she brought Fifi home.

French bulldogs are not meant to be high activity dogs, but they are a breed that wants to be with people - a great match for pet therapy.

“I saw how much she likes people and I had been thinking that pet therapy was the perfect thing for her,” said Ellen.

When Ellen met AIR Co-Founder Tricia Baker , who happened to be her canine obedience instructor, she knew becoming an AIR Dogs: Paws for Minds team would be the right fit.

“I thought the whole idea of reaching out to kids of all ages was such a great thing,” said Ellen of AIR’s programs at schools for elementary through college age students. “I’ve always been such a dog person and know the benefits of dogs, and I knew that would be so great to go into schools and promote good mental health.”

Since they have been certified, Ellen and Fifi have enjoyed attending a variety of events and programs from AIR’s In Their Shoes to visits to Artis Senior Living and elementary schools. And whether it’s an educational program or a response to a school crisis, Ellen has seen Fifi’s impact.

“I can’t tell you how many kids have said to me 'This is the best day of my life to have the dogs here,'” she said. “Everyone is so much happier after they get a chance to pet Fifi.”

Ellen really enjoys visiting the West Windsor Plainsboro schools that her sons once attended, but is happy to visit colleges as well.

“The college kids are great to visit,” said Ellen. “They’re away from home and they love to see the dogs.”

Ellen’s favorite visit with Fifi so far was at Chilton Medical Center last September. A little boy came over and told Ellen that his sister, who was about 5 years old, was afraid of dogs because she had been bitten.

“At one point she sat down and Fifi went over and sat in her lap. It was the first time Fifi got in someone’s lap on her own. It was almost like Fifi knew,” said Ellen.
She said the girl’s parents were so happy to see her comfortable with Fifi as they had been wanting another dog, but had wanted to be sure their daughter wasn’t afraid.

“You never know what kind of person you’re going to meet or what their story is,” said Ellen.

Ellen, a lifelong New Jersey resident, has lived in Plainsboro the last 25 years. After graduating from college, she worked in retail management and then stayed home to raise her two sons, now 22 and 29 years old. She has Fifi and Fifi’s daughter, Mabel, who also is a certified therapy dog and has done a few visits for AIR.

When she’s not volunteering for AIR, Ellen works out at the gym and is an avid reader. She also has her own craft room at home where she creates gifts and party decorations. She said her husband has been trying to persuade her to take up golf, but she hasn’t been convinced yet, even though they first met in a golf class in college.

Ellen’s advice to newer teams is to try and follow your dog’s lead and not get too intimidated.

 “In the beginning it might seem a little overwhelming, but every visit you go on, you learn something new,” said Ellen. “I’ve learned more to sit back and let Fifi be more of the star.”
About Fifi

Breed: French Bulldog
Birthday: May 20, 2014
Favorite visit: West Windsor Plainsboro schools
Favorite treat: string cheese
Favorite activity: sitting in mom's lap
Y About Mabel

Breed: French Bulldog
Birthday: July 5, 2016
Favorite treat: string cheese
Favorite activity: sitting in mom's lap
If you're an Amazon Prime Member, don't miss the sales AND a chance to
help Attitudes In Reverse  through Amazon Smiles.

Whether you're a Prime member or just an Amazon shopper, just name Attitudes in Reverse as your charity and Amazon will donate 0.5% of all your  purchases to AIR!
Please help us help our youth.
100% of donations go directly to
Attitudes In Reverse and support our mission of youth mental health and
suicide prevention. Thank you very much!
Thank You So Much for Your Support!