I was three months away from retiring when I happened to see a Facebook post from a friend. There they were, a basket of newborn puppies. My heart melted as I ran to show my husband, Jim. "I suppose you want one?", he said?" Oh Yes, please....they won't be ready to leave their mother for 2 months, a puppy can be my retirement present.
And so, I fired off an email, "tell me about the puppy laying upside down in the basket." "Female, first born," she replied. Husky(mom) / German Shepherd (dad), her dogs. I'll buy her! I became a dog owner again.
My neighbor Sue picked out a puppy too, and when they were 4 weeks old we drove 2hrs to meet our puppies, Luna and Buster, for the first time. At seven weeks old, home they came.
From the start, Luna displayed a calm , aware demeanor. We have five cats , but, so did her birth household. She was unfazed, just took them in stride. She had been held a lot by my friend's daughter, so she was used to being picked up and held. I was assessing her potential to be a therapy dog. As a member of Palatine's Emergency Response and Animal Rescue Teams I had been thinking I'd like to be part of a Therapy Dog team too.
I socialized Luna at every opportunity, festivals, parks, visits to Ace Hardware and Home Depot. At three months old, we spent three days and evenings volunteering at the Rotary Club of Palatine's Oktoberfest . Hundreds of people asked to pet, hold and have pictures taken with Luna. She wasn't spooked by loud bands, flash cameras, crowds, other dogs, babies, children or adults. She simply charmed her way into the hearts of many.
I was ready to look into obedience and specialized training. My Vet had a therapy dog, so I inquired where they trained. He mentioned several options but, that he had gone to A Closer Bond. I gave them a call.
I was impressed by the initial conversation I had with Katy Cushing. She listened to my goals and dreams and, we made an appointment for an assessment.
After meeting Luna, Jim, and me and, discussing various options we decided to enroll Luna in the 19 day boot camp. It was November and Luna was 17 weeks old.
The best part of the program we selected was that I received training with Luna. We were beginning our Team Building Bond.
The start of Therapy Work.....
Annually, following Christmas my brother-in-law comes for a visit.
This visit he arrived looking drained. I noticed his arm going slack. I was sure he was having a stroke. I was right. Following his hospital stay he was transferred to an acute Rehab Hospital and then to Lutheran Home Rehabilitation Center. I inquired if they allowed pet visits. They do! So at just Six months old, Luna began visiting her Uncle. As other patients saw her, she began visiting them too and, the staff. Her obedience training was paying off!
From foundation to bricks and mortar....
Lucky Luna turned 1 year old in June just as Therapy Dog Classes were ready to begin in July. We trained as a team, earning first our Canine Good Citizen Award, in September we Certified as a Therapy Dog Team with Therapy Pets Unlimited. I can't adequately express how proud I am of Luna. She is my shining star! Since November 2015 we have been assigned to Lutheran Home visiting residents on the Alzheimer's and Dementia wards. It is uplifting to engage with residents who pet Luna and open up with memories of pets from their past. The smiles, the love, the many questions they ask, speaks to the powerful bond animals forge in our hearts and minds. We meet between 30 and 50 residents each week.
Luna and I are paying it forward and the reward for us is the love we receive from those who have nothing else to give.