Riley Dawg shares
Lake Oswego resident Diane Schweisguth has enjoyed the company of her dog Riley since she adopted him six and a half years ago.
Riley is a Coton de Tulear, a breed known for its happy, clownish, and inquisitive nature, according to several breed-specific websites. He is a peaceful dog and Schweisguth says passersby can't help but smile when they encounter her and her companion on their walks through the streets of downtown Lake Oswego.
"He's a happy guy," says Schweisguth about Riley. "When I adopted him, I had hoped we could become a Pet Partners therapy dog team and go to hospitals or senior centers to brighten the lives of others. But Riley wasn't able to pass the test to be a Pet Partner. He barks at wheelchairs and doesn't always 'sit' or 'stay' on command."
Pet Partners is a nonprofit organization with a mission of improving human health and well-being through the human-animal bond. Pet Partner teams, made up of a human and their pet, interact with a wide variety of clients, including veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, seniors living with Alzheimer's, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities and those approaching end of life.
Still, she wanted to have a way to share the love Riley gives to her with others and that's when she came up with the idea of RileyDawg — a comfort pet. More than a stuffed animal, RileyDawg is a weighted plush dog, which Schweisguth designed to bring hours of hugs, smiles and comfort to those in need — wherever and whenever needed.
Through the internet, Schweisguth found Stuffington Bear, an Arizona-based company that could make a prototype of the comfort pet. The stuffed version looks very much like the original Riley, down to the dark eyes, smiling face, and even the tail.
"They asked me to send a photo of his tail," Schweisguth laughed. It was important to Schweisguth that the comfort pet be American-made, and feel real to those who would use it.
"RileyDawg is designed to be a little heavier than the average plush animal," said Mary Kim Kaylor, a registered licensed occupational therapist with whom Schweisguth consulted. "Studies have found that weighted items stimulate deep pressure receptors in our body and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. While holding the weighted RileyDawg and petting the soft plush animal, it can have a calming and relaxing effect on the person."
Schweisguth says the comfort pet has a timeless appeal to children and adults, especially those in need of a hug and a smile, whether they are ill, lonely or just having a bad day. Often senior residences and care facilities may have live animal visits, such as what Pet Partners provides, for a short period of time on an infrequent basis. Who or what can the patients turn to after the animal leaves? RileyDawg can be that constant companion.
"RileyDawg can make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others," Schweisguth said.
Riley Dawgs can be adopted for $45, and $5 from each adoption is donated to Pet Partners. The comfort pets are available in Lake Oswego at Chocolates by Bernard, 440 Fifth St., and Pig'ment Boutique, 333 S. State St., Suite F. Or, order online at rileydawg.com.