by Lee Juslin
Sandy and Izzie, a certified therapy dog, worked as a team to bring joy and comfort to seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They were even part of a therapy pet dance troupe that entertained the seniors. As a team, they were very closely bonded. So, when Izzie died, Sandy was devastated.
Several years passed, and though she had four cats, Sandy realized she missed that special doggie relationship. She missed canine cuddles. Linda, a friend, Scottie breeder and unofficial Scottie rescuer several states away in Tennessee, began urging Sandy to adopt another dog. After all, Linda knew there were so many homeless dogs who would just love to be Sandy’s cuddle-provider.
Then, one day attending a Bark and Park event in her home town, a local shelter told Linda about a Scottie they had. He’d been at the shelter for a while, but they were still hoping for an adoption because he was a pure bred Scottie and very cute. When Linda went to see the “Scottie”, she realized he was more Westie despite his large Scottie-like ears. “He’s not a Scottie,” Linda told the shelter staff, “but I know just the perfect home for him”. So, the Westie/Scottie went home with Linda as the first leg on his trip to a forever home.
There wasn’t much information about the little white dog except that he was found running down a five lane highway, was heartworm positive, about two years old and hadn’t been neutered. Linda notified Sandy that she had her dog, but that the little guy needed some care first. Linda began to clean up Ozzie; a name immediately selected by Sandy and started his heart worm treatment. Meanwhile she sent Sandy pictures and Sandy immediately fell in love. “I’ve never seen just a picture of a dog and fallen so completely in love, but I just knew he was mine”.
After about two weeks, Linda and Sandy made arrangements to meet half-way between Tennessee and Sandy’s home in Missouri, a trip of about one hundred and thirty miles for each. Unfortunately, about ninety miles out, Sandy had a blowout. She made arrangements to be towed to an area repair shop and then called Linda. No problem. Linda drove the extra distance to the repair shop and Ozzie met Sandy.
At home, introducing Sandy’s cats to Ozzie was not a big problem. Sandy has a two-story home and the older cats stay, for the most part, upstairs, but the younger cat seemed interested in making a playmate out of Ozzie, who has shown no aggressiveness towards the cats.
Ozzie’s heartworm treatment has continued and Sandy is hoping that he will be completely heart worm free soon. Then she can have him neutered. In the State of Missouri, neutering is free and there are discounts for other tests and procedures as well. Meanwhile Ozzie is proving to be very smart and a quick learner.
One hot summer day, Sandy was sitting on her back deck. She had put out a bowl of food for Ozzie. However, Ozzie seemed reluctant to eat, at least at first. Then, much to Sandy’s surprise, he carefully picked up the bowl of kibble, tipped it back towards him to avoid spillage, and carried it out to a shady spot under a tree. “That’s when I realized I wasn’t the smartest one in the family.”
Ozzie must have had a person who cared for him at one time because he already knew some basic commands, but Sandy has helped him learned some new tricks. For instance, when he fetches his beloved chicken toy, she will ask him for kisses. He then wraps his paws around her wrist like a hug and gives her a kiss either on her wrist or on her face. He has also learned that the old tricks are not enough, and when Sandy tells him to do something new and different, he figures out something on his own like adding a second part to an established trick.
Ozzie’s fame has spread beyond Sandy’s backyard as he is featured in a book about how to write a memoir of your pet. The author asked for information from other dog owners, and Sandy sent in pictures of Ozzie. He made the cut, and is featured in the book entitled: Write Your Pet’s Life Story in 7 Easy Steps by Mary Anne Benedetto.
When we asked Sandy about Ozzie becoming a therapy dog, she told us that he is young and still fairly excitable. “He’ll have to calm down quite a bit to become a certified therapy dog”. But can’t you just see him fetching and giving wrist hugs to a group of seniors in a nursing home?
Author’s note: Sandy and Izzie were my inspiration in getting involved in pet therapy work with my wonderful Nurse Frosty. Those years when Frosty and I visited in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities and had all kinds of fun and interesting adventures are among the happiest in my life. Tails of a Therapy Dog. Frosty’s Story.
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