Dog day afternoon at Williamsburg Landing

Kay Loveland grew up in Williamsburg as the daughter of Wayne and Ruth Kernodle, founders of the Christopher Wren Association for Lifelong Learning.

The couple, who retired as professors at William and Mary years ago, are residents of Woodhaven at Williamsburg Landing. Wednesday marked Ruth's 92nd birthday. To celebrate, Loveland threw a unique party for her mom.

Seems the Kernodles lost their beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Katie, prior to their move to Woodhaven. The loss affected them deeply. What's more Ruth has recently had health challenges and has been in considerable pain.

"Mom has had a couple of falls and hasn't been feeling well," Loveland said recently. "I wanted her to have visits from Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for her birthday."

The back porch of Woodhaven Landing came alive with 13 of the dogs ranging in age from five months to five years. They licked and frolicked with all those gathered to celebrate—especially Ruth.

"I was very surprised by this," Ruth Kernodle said. "I think it is absolutely wonderful. I haven't seen a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel since we lost ours. It takes a lot to surprise me. I love Cavaliers so much."

Wayne Kernodle, 97, agreed. "It was such a great surprise," he said with a wide smile. "It is marvelous, fantastic."

Loveland searched the Internet for area Cavalier King Charles Spaniels breeders and found Lynda Fairchild, who lives in Gloucester. Loveland contacted Fairchild about the birthday plan. She enthusiastically accepted to take part, and she brought several of her friends to assist.

"I am so glad that Kay contacted me," Fairchild said, adding with a laugh, "And, there are two cat people who came along with me to help."

Loveland, who is a clinical psychologist, knows the impact pets can make in helping those with emotional or physical challenges. That's why the party was so important.

"For the elderly, or for anyone, therapy dogs can decrease pain level, decrease depression, decrease blood pressure and decrease loneliness," she said. "Research has shown that petting a dog can increase oxytocin, which provides a peaceful feeling and feelings of attachment."

Loveland has seen the challenges her mother has faced recently and wanted a tangible way to help.

"We are trying to get mom's strength back so she can go back to assisted living," Loveland said. "I wanted to do something that would give her hope and encouragement and happiness, and boy has she smiled today."

In fac, smiles abounded in all those attending. "Cavaliers are like potato chips," laughed Larry Torgersen, who with his wife Cindy, own several of the dogs. "No one can have just one."

"Their (Cavaliers) mission in life is to kiss you and make you happy," said Cheri Brooks who arrived with her dogs. "I had surgery eight years ago and my friend had just adopted a Cav and she brought him over to see me. The dog snuggled with me, and I knew that as soon as I got well, I would get one. I wouldn't have any other kind of dog."

Fairchild, who is a therapy dog evaluator, said that dogs provide crucial companionship and love. "Any dog can be a therapy dog," she explained. "It's all about their temperament. These dogs are wonderful as therapy dogs."

For Loveland, the day resounded with meaning. "My parents have done so many things in their lives. It is quite a legacy to have them as parents. It was time for me to ask, 'What can I do for them?'"