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More Life Lessons from Therapy Dogs

Sadly, our therapy dog program lost another of its long time members this past week. On July 19 Smudge, a 13 year old basset hound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Smudge was adopted at age 4 and began doing therapy work soon thereafter. On Saturday mornings he faithfully visited hospitalized children. Smudge was an accomplished counter-surfer and his owner Pam loves to tell the story of his visit to a little girl who had hidden her waffle in the sheets of her hospital bed. No one knows if she was saving it for later, or just pretending to have eaten it, but when Smudge was placed on her bed for a few moments of cuddling, he began rooting around in the sheets and found the waffle in no time! At age 10, Smudge developed incontinence and was diagnosed with back problems requiring surgery. Although he didn’t regain continence, he was otherwise healthy, so Pam learned how to express his bladder, which she did every 6-7 hours for the past three years, arranging her work and the rest of her life around this schedule. Although she tried using vet techs to help on occasion, Smudge would not let anyone else express him. Earlier this year Pam and I were invited to speak at a conference in South Carolina about how to start a pet therapy program. As this was an overnight trip, Smudge traveled with us, resting comfortably in the back of her Escape. Once she mastered the routine of traveling with Smudge, Pam was able to take a few day trips. One of Smudge’s last outings was to our June walk-a-thon, Paws on Parade,where Smudge held court at the pavilion, supervising the snack table of course!

I can’t begin to measure the devotion that Pam and her husband displayed to Smudge, and the commitment to his care they made. Along the way there were huge vet bills and late night trips to the emergency clinic, as well as interrupted sleep nearly every night. But I’m sure they would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Smudge will be much missed, but his legacy as a therapy dog lives on. May all the pockets in dog heaven be full of treats for him!

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