She was just a black Pekingese runt who got lost on the black tiles of the linoleum squares in our kitchen. I was just a nine-year-old girl living on the hospital compound where my father was a Public Health physician on an Indian reservation.

10 years old at the Napi Elementary School in Montana

10 years old at the Napi Elementary School in Browning, Montana

Each day on my way to school I walked anxiously past two liquor bars with open doors, looked behind me for skinny stray dogs, bent my head into the ubiquitous wind, and braced myself for a day with no friends – and a gym teacher who yelled at me. My mother worried because I had no appetite and only ate cheese crackers and cranberry nutbread. “Tiny” was my therapy. I dressed her in doll clothes and held her tightly.

Copperfield was my husband’s hunting dog.  The butterscotch Golden Retriever crashed through ice to retrieve ducks and dove through invisible electric fences to runaway.

Copperfield loved water!

Copperfield loved water!

My husband died when the pup was 10 months old. For over 16 years, Copperfield was my solace and companion. Stroking his fur and nestling my nose next to his face got me through plenty of tough times. Putting down that dog was one of the saddest things I’d ever done. I couldn’t bear to put down another; and so I planned to enjoy my independence. For six-and-a-half years, I had that freedom.

“Mom, you do better with a dog,” said my daughter last January. I knew that. I missed going for walks along the creek and hikes in the mountains. I missed the feel of a warm furry dog beneath my feet at the kitchen table when I ate my meals or read the newspaper. I missed the interruptions in my writing of articles, curriculum, newsletters, and books — when a dog wanted to play or go for a walk. Getting out of the office into moist springtime rainy air or eye-watering cold winter snowy air — cleared my mind, relaxed my drawn up shoulders, and eased my squinted eyes.

Four months ago, I brought home a creamy Golden Retriever with long eyelashes, and black eyes and nose.

I'm a doggie-mama again!

I’m a doggie-mama again!

I’m greeted when I enter the house. I’m entertained by the frolicking fur ball that romps in the snow and dives into the tall grass. Sometimes I just sit and run my fingers through her thick curly fur. “Taffy” is good therapy for me.

I want to share good therapy. Taffy has already shown the innate qualities of a Therapy Dog. Together, we will visit people and children who need encouragement, a laugh, entertainment, or a quiet moment stroking a warm, loving dog.

Learning about wheelchairs.

Learning about wheelchairs.

Having a puppy is an adventure. Training her is an adventure. Sharing therapy will be an adventure.

Completing Puppy School.

Completing Puppy School.

What is good therapy for you?

(This article appeared first in “The Country Register – Kansas” in the February/March 2014 issue.)

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