Volunteer of the Month – October 2018

Volunteer of the Month – October 2018

Volunteer Spotlight

Each month Retrieving Independence recognizes one of our dedicated volunteers. With a group of more than 50 active volunteers pouring love and training into our service dogs, we are forever indebted and grateful for these people!

This month we’d like you to meet Dorothy Thompson, our volunteer trainer. We hope you enjoy reading her story as told by Dorothy herself.


I grew up in Nashville, but was born in a small town in New Jersey. My parents were war refugees from Sicily and became proud citizens as soon as they could and made good use of their tailoring skills in their business ventures.

We had dogs growing up and I soon realized I wanted to be a veterinarian. One of my first jobs was at Green Hills Animal Hospital as a kennel cleaner and eventually ended up assisting in surgery. In college, I soon realized I wasn’t going to pass all the science courses it required, so I changed career paths.

My working career has included being a Dept. Mgr at Macy’s, owning my own retail store, and as an investment advisor at Merrill Lynch. Merrill is where I met my husband and I’m now an empty-nester looking to reinvent the second part of my life as my husband begins his retirement.

In addition to my career before marriage & children, I’ve always volunteered my time to different charities, Nashville Junior Chamber, Junior League, & to my children’s schools. I continued this in another form two years ago and became registered as a therapy animal handler with Therapy ARC. My Bella & I visit hospitals, mental health facilities, schools, memory care programs, and inmates at our local jail. What’s better than volunteering in the community than with your favorite companion!

A year ago I decided I would love to learn more about training service dogs and saw a magazine article about Retrieving Independence and contacted Dr. Brenda Dew. I started shadowing Lesley at Turney in January of this year and have enjoyed all aspects of creating future service dogs. I have lots of gratitude to both Lesley and Brenda for allowing me to tag along as I learn the skills needed to train these great assistance animals – though the most rewarding part of volunteering with RI are the inmate trainers and recipients.

Working with the trainers and listening to their stories of how our opportunity has changed their lives and then coming full circle to witness how this work improves the lives of the recipients is very humbling.

Former and new recipients tell me how these assistance dogs have made it much easier to lead independent lives. It is when reading their stories of amazement and gratitude that I know all the staff and awesome volunteers of RI are making a difference in people’s lives.

So even though I never became a veterinarian, I made my way back to working with animals.