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Two Incredible Authors—One United Story of Gratitude

Spotlighting Sheila Hittner and Trish Perry .

Article by Shannon Hofer-Pottala

Photography by Lisa Cline and Stuart Herrick

Originally published in Eagan City Lifestyle

SHEILA HITTNER, Real Estate Agent and Author of Brisket Cares: Love is its Own Language, talks about her passion for helping others with her husband Keith.

Sheila and Keith do everything together. "We work together, do real estate together," says Sheila. "We wanted to find a way to give back together."

Sheila knew she wanted to work with kids. She decided to train a therapy dog to provide support to children in hospice. When Sheila met Brisket, it was love at first sight. "We got her when she was just three pounds," she says.

The process of getting Brisket ready to be a therapy dog wasn't easy. Brisket was enrolled in puppy classes, Obedience 1, and Obedience 2. "I'll never forget the first day we went to the testing facility," says Sheila. "I thought, 'We're never going to do this. We're never going to pass.' It was in a gymnasium of toys, loud noises, people...we had to go through all of these things to get to the end without attacking or biting."

Three months later, the letter came in the mail to decide if Brisket could be a therapy animal. Sheila opened it to find a rejection; therapy dogs must be at least 1 year old, and Brisket had taken the exam a day before her first birthday. "We had to redo it," says Sheila.

When Brisket was finally certified, Sheila and Keith began volunteering. As they would enter the room of a patient, Keith would say, "I am Brisket, the world-famous therapy dog." Patients loved Brisket and Brisket loved them.

Sheila wrote Brisket Cares because of her desire to help children in hospice. She told herself, "I'll write a book, and then we'll go visit them, and then we'll read the book to the kids, and then we'll leave the book and the stuffed animal and the coloring book with the family. Then, when the kids pass, the parents have a good, cherished memory of their child at the end of their life." 

Brisket has visited children's hospitals, elementary schools, community centers, rotaries, and even appeared in a firefighters' calendar. Brisket's presence helps patients in pain or stress, students struggling with the confidence to read, and anyone experiencing stress or anxiety.

The most rewarding part of volunteering is when people connect with them later on. Sheila recalls one especially heartwarming experience: "They came up to me and they said, 'I just want you to know that you visited your dog visited me in the hospital and I can't tell you how much that meant to me.' She's crying, I'm crying, Keith's crying, the dad's crying."

In addition to being volunteers, Sheila and Keith Hittner are established real estate agents, owners of the Rack Shack BBQ, founders of Our Healthy Homes, hosts of radio shows Real Estate Chalk Talk and Our Healthy Homes, and grandparents to 16 grandchildren.

"We think that everybody should volunteer for something at some point in their life," said Sheila and Keith. "Do something for somebody else."

TRISH PERRY, Founder and Certified Results Coach of Harmonize Coaching, discusses her journey from the corporate world to the coaching world.

Trish's coaching story begins with sorrow. In July of 2012, Trish was diagnosed with breast cancer. While recovering from her double mastectomy, Trish also cared for her father, who needed brain surgery, dealt with the loss of her dog, the news that her best friend had cancer, the discovery that her sister had stage four malignant melanoma, and the passing of that sister. In a remarkable show of strength and good humor, Trish jokes, "My life had become a country song."

Despite her hardships, Trish says she and her family "decided to handle the situation with humor and joy versus handling it with dread and sadness." During this time, she became interested in coaching, completed her master's degree, and began practicing.

"I want to be impactful," says Trish. "It's about feeling like you're living your purpose. There's an amazing amount of joy."

At Harmonize Coaching, Trish offers individual coaching, which focuses on personal goals and adversaries, organizational coaching, which works with teams as a unit, speaking, which inspires others, and the Power Path Goal Success Workshop, which focuses on setting and achieving goals.

Trish is the author of Real, Raw, & Relatable: Corporate Bad*** Mom to Zen Mom, a collection of 52 stories about her life, her journey to coaching, and the lessons she learned along the way. Real, Raw, & Relatable is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and local bookstores.

One of the most difficult lessons Trish learned was that of gratitude. On the 10-year anniversary of her double mastectomy, Trish wrote a letter to cancer, which she later published in her book. The letter reads, "Dear cancer, as unusual as this may seem, this is a thank-you letter. Do you cause pain and suffering? Yes, and I hate you for that. What you don't realize is that through all of the pain and suffering comes endless love, pure compassion, and wonderful, meaningful friendships. You didn't win."

Although her life may not have taken the corporate path she had initially planned, Trish finds joy in her career and in helping others. "I'm a coach by accident," says Trish, "but I continue to coach through passion and purpose."