February 19, 2013
This is an amazing story that we hope will inspire dog owners to persevere and to work through any and all issues that your dog may have.
About a year ago, a 4-month-old male black Lab puppy was found in Dawson Open Space, west of Castle Rock. The pup was malnourished, undersocialized, and terrified. After several challenging hours of enticement, the pup was safely captured and the family who found him took him to the Humane Society. They waited for the mandatory hold time to expire and, with no inquiries, brought him home (as well as his kennel mate). I was contacted for training and socialization, and thus began their adventure.
It took the pup several weeks to begin trusting strangers. However, his very eager and extremely motivated new mom, Dawn, was determined to make him a therapy dog, so that he could join her in helping others.
I had my reservations, but between Dawn’s enthusiasm and his progress, I was thrilled to take on the challenge.
At about 8 months of age, tragedy struck. The dog woke up one morning blind! He was diagnosed with detached retinas, without any trauma or cause.
We were all devastated, but decided that we would start him on scent work. Scenting was low-impact on him physically, and would teach him how to really use his nose. It also gave him and Dawn some different training goals and ideas.
He proved to be exceptional in this area, progressing faster than most dogs, when a true miracle happened. His retinas reattached, and he had his sight back! Mutually deciding to err on the side of caution, we continued the scent training, and I turned the reigns over to my wife, Bianca (who I refer to as the Scent Guru). He got to the point where Dawn could hide her keys (or any other personal objects) in a random tree, spread her scent all over our front yard (about an acre, with numerous trees, a pond, wildlife, etc.), and that dog would find the item in seconds.
After getting the green light from his vet, we began training him again for therapy work. He was now a wonderful, loving dog, but still had several hurdles to overcome, specifically the medical equipment often encountered, such as walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. He got over them all, one by one. He passed his test with ease, and we referred him to our long-time client and friend, Joetta, who is currently the local evaluator for Therapy Dogs Inc.
He went through the usual weeks of rigorous testing and training for this particular job. Now we are all quite proud to announce that he is a Certified TDI Therapy Dog, at 19 months of age. He has already done several solo visits, with great reviews from staff and patients.
The moral of this story: Try not to overlook the gifts that destiny presents to you because, with enough faith, love, and determination, you too can achieve your goals and dreams.
In Dawn’s case, that gift gave her the ability to reach her goal of bringing a bit of happiness to those who desperately need it. It came in the form of a scared, little, black Lab puppy, she found abandoned in the woods.