Therapy dog brings comfort, happiness to Pittston Area graduate with Sotos syndrome

By Jimmy Fisher - | September 8th, 2016 2:20 pm

Teddy is more than just a pet to Harry Robertson. He’s Harry’s best friend.

Harry, 41, and his 13-year-old Labrador/Shepherd mix, Teddy, have been a duo for more than a decade.

Teddy is not just Harry’s best friend; he is his therapy dog.

Harry was born with with Sotos syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by excessive physical growth during the first years of life.

Excessive growth often starts in infancy and continues into the early teen years. The syndrome can also lead to learning disabilities.

“At the age of 3, he had man-sized ears, a high roof (in his mouth), (slanted) eyes and was 10 years behind (mentally),” said Harry’s mother, Peggy. “At 15, he was on an average of a 5-year-old.”

Because of Sotos syndrome, Harry didn’t have many friends while growing up. When the family acquired Teddy, Peggy knew he was the friend her son needed.

“When I had Harry around my relatives and different people, he was fascinated with their animals,” she said. “I said to my husband about getting him a dog to see what happens. It just so happens we got this dog and the dog had a lot of problems because the guy that had him before was kicking him in the mouth. We started taking care of him; it turned out to be an excellent therapy dog for Harry.”

The two met when Harry and his family were shopping for a Thanksgiving turkey.

“We (saw) an ad on the wall on a bulletin board over at Redner’s (Warehouse Markets) about a 12-week-old dog,” he said. “We wound up with a 12-pound turkey and a 12-week-old dog.”

The Robertsons were initially banned by their landlord from keeping Teddy at their apartment, but eventually won a lawsuit against the landlord and registered Teddy as a therapy dog.

Harry, who resides in Moosic with his parents, is a 1994 Pittston Area graduate. He kept busy during his senior year in high school with the Key Club. He also managed the boys basketball team.

Harry works as a custodian at the Pittston Area Primary Center and although Teddy goes with him almost everywhere, the dog cannot accompany him to his job.

Those few hours apart makes their reunion all the better when Harry gets home from work.

“He comes over to the door with his tail wagging,” Harry said of Teddy. “He’s just a really happy-go-lucky dog.”

Now Harry is the one taking care of Teddy.

Teddy developed hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints as he ages.

Harry has to lift Teddy up to get him into his vehicle when they go for drives.

Peggy says the friendship her son shares with Teddy opened him up to be a more social person.

“There is a gigantic difference in Harry as far as being sociable,” she said. “Since he’s had Teddy, he’s been more open to people and starts talking to people more often. He’s more calm and it’s really a good break for me and my husband.”

“I really love Teddy a whole lot,” said Harry.

Harry Robertson and his therapy dog, Teddy, go everywhere together. Robertson and his therapy dog, Teddy, go everywhere together. Submitted photo
Harry Robertson and his therapy dog, Teddy, have been a duo for 13 years. Robertson and his therapy dog, Teddy, have been a duo for 13 years. Submitted photo
Therapy dog brings comfort, happiness to PA grad

By Jimmy Fisher

Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher