Logan, Zep, Silver, and Duncan’s Story: (as told by Jenyfer)
Five years ago I adopted Logan, a flop-eared, 5 year old (we thought), big, and loving German Shepherd from the local pound. She had outstayed her welcome there and was on the Put to Sleep list. The kind people there kept stalling for time for her.
I had just moved to Tennessee and promptly settled in to, not just a wonderful new life with my new family but, a serious case of depression. I went on Petfinder to find a dog (preferably a Shepherd) that needed me as much as I needed him/her. It was love at first sight with Logan: a beautiful, skinny girl who had nice manners and a gentle temperament. Training her, fattening her up, and helping her settle in not only helped us bond but helped my depression lift. If being with her made me feel so much better, imagine how it could make others feel, I thought.
My mother-in-law’s retirement home had regular visits from therapy dogs and, after some research, thought TherapyARC would be perfect for Logan and me.
We started the TherapyARC program in April 2002 and graduated in August. She and I learned a lot together, had so much fun, and couldn’t wait to begin our “visits.”
Sadly, Logan died November 1, 2002, after a brief illness and before we could get started.
While Logan was sick, a TherapyARC teacher, Linda Brewer, called to tell me that a neighbor dog was headed back to the pound due to his owner’s divorce. Would I be interested? Not then, but a week after Logan passed and I really “needed” another Shepherd to love I was ready to adopt Zep. He’s now a seven-year-old, 92 pound bundle of beautiful black and tan fun who still goes through puppyhood regularly. And Linda Brewer is his proud godmother (plus now a dear friend in addition to instructor!)
Zep quickly became an important member of the family and we found that, thanks to Linda, he already possessed good manners and was quick to learn. Thinking that he would make the perfect Delta Dog, we couldn’t wait to start the program. But first, he needed a friend.
Back to Petfinders and a trip to a pet adoption later, we brought home Silver. She, too, is a flop-eared Shepherd, black and silver colored, and about five years old.
It was soon clear, however, that our Princess Silver enjoyed spending her days ignoring Zep and bossing him around rather than playing with him. But her temperament and unusual looks plus her intelligence made her a good Delta candidate.
Zep graduated in May and Silver in July. After distributing Press Kits and talking with local schools, senior centers, and “test driving” other types of facilities, we decided that 21st Century Adult Day Services, an organization that works with adults with brain injuries, would be a good place to visit.
In June of 2003, Zep and I made our first official trip to 21st Century. I was a little anxious, primarily because I was not familiar working in this environment. Within a few minutes all my nervousness went out the door because we were so busy saying hello and having so many people come to introduce themselves. It was overwhelming, but a warm, welcoming beginning!
Zep and I met all kinds of people that day: Mr. B., a survivor of a stroke, petted Zep non-stop; T., a young woman in a wheelchair who talked about her two dogs while massaging Zep’s ears; and many others. The staff were friendly and seemed to enjoy the visit.
There were a few who really didn’t seem to want to visit with us and that was ok, too. One gentleman, J., seemed a bit hostile. One young man, R., totally ignored us. And F. and F., the two board-game-playing men were not interested. Hmmm I thought. Maybe this may not be as easy and warm-fuzzies as I originally imagined. For the most part our visit went well. Zep enjoyed the attention and we made some people smile. Next week may be different.
Anyway, I continued to visit every week; some days bringing Zep and other times Silver.
It became a game with some of the clients: can you remember which dog this is? Who do you think I’ll bring next time? The mental stimulation and break in routine these games provided was welcomed and the staff was so appreciative.
The clients also “taught” the dogs tricks: “sit,” “down,” and “say hello (raising a paw)” gave a feeling of importance and accomplishment and the look on the faces of some of these people were wonderful beyond words.
There is one gentleman there, Mr. J., who is confined to a wheelchair and is in failing health. He keeps to himself, hardly ever talks to anybody, and very rarely participates in the activities. Every Wednesday though, he saves part of his lunch to share with the dogs, including leftovers for the dogs left at home. We always enjoy hearing stories about his dog and look forward to the treats.
One day in March, Silver and I went to the Center and noticed the door was closed and the lights were off out back. Odd. The next thing we know, all the lights came on, everyone started clapping, and the surprise “Thank You” party for us was in full swing! These people, many in wheelchairs with severe physical and neurological difficulties, had all made greeting cards for the dogs and me and even made up and sang a song about us.
This past March, my husband Joe and I rescued and fostered a Shepherd/Husky mix named Duncan. He was a scrawny, matted, hookworm-positive dog who was chained up for four years and whose hips had atrophied so much that the vet originally thought they were dysplastic. But what a sweet, gentle fellow. He longed for a family. Joe fell in love with him and thought we should keep him (this really was his idea, not mine!) Duncan is another flop-eared dog, four years old, and about as adorable as they come. Well, you can guess the rest. He became a Delta dog just two weeks ago and we can’t wait for our paperwork to go through so I can take him to the Center!
And by the way: J. the young man who seemed hostile, taught me how to play checkers and is usually the first one at the door to help me with the dogs; F. & F., the checker-playing men, now enjoy trading jokes and barbs with me each week. It’s difficult for me to try and stay ahead of them!
We lost a client to illness and Silver and I were there when everyone got the bad news.
There are so many stories; most of them funny and happy but a few sad that I could share. It’s been a year and a half since we started visiting and I’m looking forward to more time with them. Along with helping in the community, I enjoy being a Pet Partner for other reasons. The dogs and I have made “public appearances” at many social events; promoted shelter/rescue/older dogs as wonderful companions and great future Delta Dogs (recycled dogs!); helped educate people on pet care and obedience training; and have made so many great friends.