The Healing Power of Pets

By April 21, 2014 Our Blog

It is common to find ourselves thinking of what we need to do to provide for our pets, but how often do we think about or even consider what our pets give to us?  

Our furry family members quickly become invaluable and cherished parts of our family.  They are there when we need them, on good days or bad, and they are an ear to listen when needed, to put a smile on our face, or to share in a celebration.   

Research shows that people with pets live longer, are more active, more social, have less stress and lower blood pressure.   Growing up with a pet can even help boost immunity and decrease risk of developing allergies.

Every pet and their family have a story, each one unique and equally as special.  There is however a very special dog and family who’s story we felt we needed to share. That is the one of our patients, a Golden Retriever by the name of Cleo.


Cleo is a dog with a very special role.  She was hand selected in Newburyport, Maine by a group of people who wanted to help a family they had never even met.  They had Cleo vaccinated and purchased toys and a blanket for her and put her on an Air Canada flight headed to Toronto.  This group was put in contact with the Bebenek family by a good friend, Lynda Campbell, who wanted to give something back to the Bebenek family.  The Bebenek family had just gone through the unimaginable, the loss of their 5 year old daughter Meagan from a brain stem glioma, a cancerous and inoperable brain tumour.   

Cleo was sent as a gift, to give hope to a grieving family. Meagan’s mother Denise still remembers the day they picked Cleo up at the airport as a “moment she will never forget”.  The Bebeneks drove to the cargo area of Air Canada.  They watched lobster crate after lobster crate unloaded from the aircraft and then suddenly they announced “Puppy Cleo” – and the Bebenek’s family  life was changed forever!

Cleo was a gift beyond measure, immediately becoming a very special part of the Bebenek family, filling their hearts with love and happiness in the midst of the saddest of any life-circumstance to be given to a family.  Now 11 years later, Cleo is a devoted and loyal family member, and fills a very special role. 

Denise Bebenek agreed to share her story as an example of the powerful role and love that our furry family members can play in our lives, and an example of how people can extend themselves so selflessly to someone in need.  She has continued this tradition of giving by creating  “Meagan’s Walk: Creating a Circle of Hope”, to spread awareness and give hope to children living with brain tumours and to honour her daughter Meagan. Now in it’s 13th year, Meagan’s Walk is a 5k walk from Fort York  to the Hospital for Sick Children.  It is at Sick Kids that participants join hands and form a “human hug” around the hospital,  a “Circle of Hope” and as a message of love and support that can be viewed by all those within.

Meagan’s Walk has raised more than $3.1 million, directly helping the dedicated doctors and researchers who are making global advancements in brain tumour research and patient care.  This year the 13th Annual Meagan’s Walk will be held on Saturday May 10th.  

Bloor Animal Hospital is proud to support Meagan’s Walk.  If you are interested in finding out more, participating or making a donation, please visit their website at

meagans walk picture


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