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Life Lessons from a Therapy Dog


Haley, a long-time therapy dog with Paws with a Purpose (now known as Paws on a Mission) recently passed away. Haley spread joy and comfort right up until the end, continuing to make therapy dog visits during what would be the last week of her life. The following tribute written by her owner, Ken, contains an important lesson.


Ever since she was a puppy, Haley loved toast and she loved peanut butter. In fact, she would eat ANYTHING with peanut butter on it! Every time the toaster was set on the kitchen counter top, Haley would strategically position herself to be certain to receive the corner piece of toast to which she felt she was entitled. Haley would get one corner and her sister Sam would be tossed another – rarely would the ‘girls’ actually catch the pieces but they’d certainly scramble like mad to clean them off the floor. Even when Haley lost her sense of hearing, she seemed to sense when that toaster came out and she’d be sure to be there, drooling like a starving hound, waiting for that tiny, precious, single corner of toast.

On more than one occasion,  my wife Ann vowed that as Haley’s days would eventually wind down to an end, she was going to prepare Haley a FULL PIECE OF TOAST – maybe a treat similar to a convict’s last meal!

Well, we let those days wind down and when we found Haley lounging on some shrubbery in our front yard one early Saturday morning, her message to us was unmistakably clear – I’m old and tired, I’m very sick and I need to be moving on to a place where I won’t hurt anymore. We were staggered by the reality of what was transpiring in front of us even though Haley had previously made clear her heart and body were most certainly failing her. But we chose to ignore her communications — foolishly thinking if we didn’t acknowledge what she was telling us, her condition really wouldn’t be as bad as we dreaded.

So now Ann hurried to the kitchen to get out the toaster so she could present Haley with that promised full piece of toast, covered with peanut butter – a prize of a lifetime earned through her love, loyalty and passion for others. To our horror, Haley could barely lift her head to contemplate her ‘lifetime achievement award’; unable to enjoy what we knew she had absolutely craved during all of her happier, healthier days.

I’m certain that in the course of owning pets, there are many lessons to be learned by their owners – some obvious and others not so much. But I know Ann & I will seriously ponder the lesson we’ve learned from that last piece of toast – so many wasted opportunities to show and give our love. Thank you, Haley for that very last gift of your long and wonderful life – we promise you it won’t be forgotten!

Rest in peace, beautiful Haley, and thank you for all the lives you touched with your gentle spirit.

4 Responses to “Life Lessons from a Therapy Dog”

  1. Keith Says:

    Haley is my brother, Ken’s dog and helped to fill his big heart. I very much appreciate the Erica Jong quote at the beginning of this site. Ken & Ann have truly big hearts. Haley’s sister, Sam, will continue to comfort her masters. I gave my dog, Stella, extra jam on her Saturday morning toast.

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks Keith. I know Haley is very much missed by all who knew and loved her. The toast story brought back memories of sharing my morning toast with my Emily (pictured at upper left on the site). I wonder how many of us have this little ritual? Laurel

  3. VJ Says:

    Wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing. V

  4. admin Says:

    Haley touched many hearts and many lives. Thanks for stopping by and reading about her! Laurel