Touching stories of strays turning to therapy dogs…
“Kandu is an unusual little dog. For one thing, he was born with no front legs. When they took him to be euthanized, the vet said the dog had too much heart and was just too full of life, so he turned him over to Evergreen Animal Protective League (EAPL) … I saw Kandu on the evening news and, along with about a hundred other people, called in to ask about adopting him. When I filled in the long application, I mentioned that our rescued Labrador, Bob, was involved in the Heeling Friends program at the local hospital. We thought Kandu would make a cool therapy dog. That idea must have been a plus for us because we were chosen … He does have a disability, but he certainly doesn’t think of himself as disabled. After completing the certification process for Heeling Pets, we committed to two years at the Yampa Valley Medical Center.
I put his wheels on, and he cruises down the corridors, his roller-blade wheels flashing little lights. Staff members, visitors and patients all stop to say hello. This dog has got such great spirit that it seems to be infectious … In addition to seeing patients in their rooms, we often stop by the physical-therapy area. Recently we have been spending time there with 10-year-old Tyler, one of Kandu’s favorite people. Last summer, Tyler lost his feet and parts of some fingers from an illness. The first time we met, Tyler asked all about Kandu and held the little dog on his lap. Kandu snuggled down and would have happily stayed there all day. Tyler stroked him with a big smile. His mom said she hadn’t seen the boy smile for weeks.” — Ken Rogers, motor-sports consultant
“Some years ago, when I was working as a news anchor and reporter at a TV station in Midland, Texas, I was sent out to investigate the alarming euthanasia rate at our local animal-services bureau. A staff person led the cameraman and me to a cage with the first dog scheduled to be euthanized that morning … This particular dog had been found wandering around the local college campus, sharing lunch with students near the duck pond. As I peered into the dark cage, I encountered the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. They belonged to a very small, very thin and very dirty golden retriever. She looked as if she wanted to say, “Are you here to take me home?” That was it for me! … A year later, we became a certified therapy team. For several years, we worked in elder-care facilities. Now we visit with 1- and 2-year-olds at Homeward Bound, a transitional-living center for mothers and children from shelter programs. Some are homeless, some come from domestic-violence situations … Sadie seems to have a sixth sense about people. I’m often amazed at her ability to know what a child needs. When the kids are upbeat and ready to play, she’s ready too. If a little one is afraid, she will turn her back to the child, somehow knowing that her back may be less frightening than her face. She will wait patiently, sometimes for months, for a child to get over the fear of being near her.” — Alisa Armijo, insurance-agency owner
“A group of vet students had found the dog at our local pound. She had a partially amputated right foreleg. The remaining portion of the leg was infected and in dire need of attention. Surgery was required, and if left at the shelter, the dog would surely have been euthanized … Marlee’s sweet, gentle nature made me realize immediately that she would make a wonderful therapy dog. After a little fine-tuning at local obedience classes, we were ready … Soon my brother-in-law, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, suggested that Marlee’s status as an amputee could make her a welcome addition to the therapy dogs visiting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I contacted People Animals Love (PAL) and was fortunate enough to join their groups on visits to Walter Reed. Marlee was well received at the hospital, and I think she was a source of inspiration for some of the brave veterans who are returning from the Iraq war with missing limbs and other disabilities. Guys in wheelchairs marked “Purple Heart Combat Wounded” would say to this little dog, ‘I know what you’re going through’ … I will always be grateful to the students who saw potential in a badly injured dog and rescued her. Marlee has been a joy every day.” — Karen Lanz, veterinarian
“In 2001, Louis, then called Loopy, was languishing in a back hospital ward at the New York City Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC). The puppy had various medical problems and was a prime candidate for euthanasia. In those days, less than 1% of dogs in similar circumstances at the CACC survived, but it was Louis’ lucky day … Louis is a gentle giant, a wonderful, compassionate therapy dog. He works at St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan, the hospital that pioneered the first therapy-dog program in New York City … Some of Louis’ greatest successes have been with neurology and oncology patients. Despite his size, he has always specialized in bed visits. For six weeks, he visited a patient with ovarian cancer who missed her own large dog very much. Louis lay on a clean sheet on the bed; together they enjoyed cuddle sessions of an hour or more, enabling her to delay her pain medication.” — Frances Pilot, freelance medical writer