P is for Piper

Therapy dog and her owner give back to young readers

As a Registered Nurse Alison Keenan spent her career caring for others; however, she found herself on the other side of the lab coat in 2015. Keenan was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer.

Recovery from a bone marrow transplant was difficult. Keenan spent one month in the hospital and three months homebound. She shared that her dog got her through the hard times.

Keenan made a vow that somehow she would use her experience to help others. “I thought, ‘There has got to be something I can do to give back,’” she recalled. “I was given this second chance.”

Keenan found her calling in a dog named, Piper.

  • Piper remains focused throughout her reading session with kindergartener J.R. Nacarato III.

Keenan, who moved to Wilson County from Wisconsin, had owned several dogs during her life, but Piper, a Golden Retriever, was special. “When I started training her, I envisioned more of a service dog. I had a total knee replacement and needed her for balance. A service dog is trained to be devoted to only you, but Piper was so engaging that it wasn’t fair to her,” Keenan said. “I pulled her out and into a therapy dog program and she blossomed.”

Both Keenan and Piper went through extensive training with Intermountain Therapy Animals and one of its registered programs, R.E.A.Ding Paws.

“The first program was six weeks but it also entailed eight hours of class for me as a trainer. You can teach a dog to do anything. You have to teach the trainer how to train,” she said. After that, the dynamic duo had to pass an exam with other handlers in various scenarios. Because Piper is trained to offer support everywhere from classrooms to nursing homes, she had to become familiar with those environments.

“When we passed, we became registered and supported by an insurance program. We are insured as a team,” Keenan added. “We have been tested and proven we can meet the requirements of going out into the public.”

When the family moved to Tennessee, they were eager to integrate themselves into the community. Piper spends many days visiting the elderly at McKendree Village in Hermitage and veterans struggling with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Still, children are her forte.

Keenan realized Piper’s interest in children early on. “When she would hear kids in a commercial on television she would wake up and try to find those kids. It became really clear to me that she loves children. She wants to play with them. She isn’t afraid of them,” she said.

Keenan reached out to the Lebanon Wilson Public Library about their unique services through Reading Paws. The Reading Paws program launch in 1999 helps struggling readers by having them read to the therapy animal.

“I reached out and let them know we would like to come once a week. This was something that hadn’t been done there,” she said.

Two young children from the private school next door, Cedars Preparatory Academy, came every Thursday to read with Piper. They didn’t miss a session for months. Their mother introduced Keenan to Cedars Prep teacher Brittany Sewell. Sewell helped arrange for Piper to visit the school beginning in 2019.

Currently, Piper visits Cedars Prep on Monday mornings. Prior to her visits she follows protocol including, but not limited to, bathing and having her teeth brushed so she is shiny and clean for reading time.

The maximum a therapy dog can perform duties in these situations is two hours. Otherwise, the animal can become stressed and tired.

Piper spends two hours weekly at Cedars, where she works with eight students. “We work a lot with teachers to identify who are the kids who need support and one-on-one motivation. The kids get to turn the tables a bit and be the teacher. They tell the dog what is going on in the book and their interpretation of the story,” Keenan said. “Children improve their reading skills in a unique and fun environment, free of performance pressure. That makes a huge difference for a child.”

The program is free of charge. Keenan simply wants to uphold her promise to give to others and support her community.

“I’ve seen the magic that happens when you take a child who is reluctant, afraid, or challenged in their reading ability and give them that consistency and support. I’ve seen that working with a dog becomes a success for them,” she said. “I was given this wonderful animal with a lot to share and it only seems right that I give back.”

Keenan has written Piper’s story in a children’s book, “Piper Finds Her Special.” It follows Piper from getting trained to become a Therapy Dog and how she discovers what makes her special. In the process, Piper and her family learn she only has one kidney but triumphantly overcomes health issues. The book is in its final stages of publishing and will be released in the spring.

Beauty and wellness from the inside out IS WHAT YOUR BODY KNEADS

Written by Becky Andrews

Photography by Jana Pastors

When the announcement came that Hamilton Springs would be the location for a new train station within a mixed-use development, Julie Wilson and Heather Hull who own and operate Body Kneads, Etc., decided they wanted to be on the ground level.  So, it’s no surprise that we met the mother-daughter duo on the ground level of their newly expanded storefront inside the development’s first commercial space. “The timing was perfect for us. We had outgrown our previous space on West Main Street, and because of the vision that the Bell Family has for the development, we couldn’t say no.” Julie says with a laugh.

Since opening in 2010 Body Kneads offered a full sensory spa experience for customers. Their new
location allows them to expand their business model which now includes a specialty Coffee Shop and Deli and a boutique fitness facility.


The mission was simple according to Julie. “Our goal is to create an all-inclusive environment where both
Wilson County residents and spa customers feel welcome.” Julie and Heather say, their friend and interior designer, Meleia Bell exceeded their expectations with the design by preserving the comfort and intimacy from their previous location and combining that with an elegant, modern look without pretense. The
pair credit graphic designer Deirdre Smith of Madejasmile Graphics with their branding and building signage.

Body Kneads Coffee Company With a combined 60 years of experience in operations and food industry management, Julie and her husband Glenn wanted to bring a healthy option for dining as well as a great cup of coffee to visitors. Customers will be treated to fresh roasted coffee from Bongo Java. The menu also includes a selection of fresh salads, wraps, paninis, sandwiches, and soups. As well as fruit, yogurt, protein
shakes, and assorted muffins. In the coming weeks and months, specialty beers and wine will be on the menu. “

*On a side note, I ordered the yogurt with fresh fruit and chicken salad wrap and OMG, both were delicious. The yogurt is served in a glass container that customers can take with them and bring back for a discount on their next order.”

Body Kneads Boutique Fitness This is Heather’s baby. Hull, who has always had a passion for wellness, fitness and working out, wanted to offer clients space that would provide an environment that would make it possible to meet all their wellness goals. “By focusing on group exercise and specializing in women’s personal training and nutritional counseling, our unique approach offers a personal style that allows everyone to feel part of a community,” Hull says.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, Hull wants to make the gym fun and educational. She also
wanted the space to serve as a safe zone for teenage girls to participate in fitness classes, nutrition education, and group discussion. “Being fit physically and mentally are not mutually exclusive. The earlier you learn about the connection of the two, the better.”


Whether you need a specialty facial, massage, pedicure, acupuncture, a weight loss plan, a cup of coffee, a
healthy option for breakfast or lunch, or need to blow off steam in a BARRE class, Body Kneads, Etc. is a one stop shop for all things healthy. Julie and Heather are quick to add that it takes a village to bring the best to Wilson County. “We are humbled to have an amazing, very talented, dedicated staff who believes in what we are doing as much as we do!” Julie continues, “The community has blessed us beyond measure by supporting Heather and I and helping us grow our business over the past eight years into what it is today. We love this town.”
*mention this article to receive a free cup of coffee or tea at Body Kneads Coffee Co. AND a complimentary
group fitness class.

Heather is a board certified LNMT Licensed Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, MTPT Myofascial Trigger
Point Therapist and as well as a certified personal trainer.

Julie is a board certified LNMT Licensed Neuromuscular Massage Therapist, MTPT Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist.

Kenneth Fletcher, L. Ac, RN-Acupuncturist.

Ann Perry, RN-Weight Loss and Health Coach.

For more information on the services offered, visit their new location at 1050 Hamilton Station Blvd. Suite
201 or visit their website www.bodykneadsetc.com

Inspiration found…keep your weight loss goals in check with help from Inspire Weight Loss

Written by Becky Andrews


Enough time has passed that most of us have probably fallen off the diet wagon we so passionately dedicated ourselves to after January 1st. It turns out there’s a doable program right here in Wilson County. President and CEO of Inspire Weight Loss in Mt Juliet Dr. Jason Burchard says it’s not just diet and exercise that hold the key to weight satisfaction. “A hormone imbalance can affect the way that your body regulates your weight and how long you can maintain weight loss.” Burchard continues, “before a patient begins our program we conduct a full blood panel to check all hormone levels.”

Above: Dr. Jason Burchard prepares for his next patient in his busy Mt Juliet office.

Because hormone production diminishes with age, Dr. Burchard believes his weight loss program not only helps patients lose weight but also helps maintain that weight loss. “We’ve all been there. You lose 20
pounds and six months later, it’s back with five more friends. So now you have 25 pounds to lose. It’s frustrating. And it’s a waste of money.”

For that reason, Burchard wanted to create a program that would fit each individual lifestyle. After re-
viewing test results with patients, one of three Inspire certified health coaches work to create a custom
all-inclusive program for individual patients. While every patient is different, each program includes three essential components.

1. What foods help you burn fat more efficiently.
2. Portion control.  Since many of us (me especially) guess at correct portions, we are often doubling or tripling what we should be eating.
3. The timing in which we eat. “Giving the body enough time to get into fat burning mode by balancing intermittent fasting with making sure you are also eating often enough within the right time frame.” Burchard continues, “This keeps your body from going into starvation mode.”

In addition to following a meal plan, patients can also opt to receive prescription HCG shots. HCG signals the body to break up and metabolize its stored fat.

Below: By offering specialty food items that can easily be included in your new meal plan, Inspire Weight Loss makes meeting your weight loss goal a little easier.

According to Burchard, if you’re considering hormone replacement, bioidentical hormones is the way to go. Unlike non-bioidentical hormones (such as birth control pills or synthetic estrogens like Prempro or
Premarin), bioidenticals have the same effect on the body as the ones produced naturally and are much
safer than synthetics. If you’re ready to make your weight loss successful, call Inspire Medical Weight Loss today. They will also work with you to create realistic weight loss goals and devise a plan to achieve them. After starting a natural hormone replacement program, your physician will continually monitor and reevaluate your hormone levels to ensure that they are maintained at their optimum balance for long-lasting health and vitality.

Above: Seeing is believing. Inspired Weight Loss client Steve Bradley shed 40 pounds on the program.

Visit in person, online or call the professionals at Inspire Medical Weight Loss today!

151 Adams Lane Suite 18, Mt Juliet, TN 37122 • (615) 453-8999 • www.weightlossmtjuliet.com