Joey — From Rescued Dog to Therapy Dog
My wife Kristine and I have been animal lovers for a long time, starting our four-legged family in Newfoundland over 12 years ago with our beagle-X, Missy. Abandoned by her mother when she was only a week old, we quickly became very attached to this little ball of fur who depended on us for everything.
Many years later in Calgary, we decided that another four-legged family member would help keep Missy active. Rotties have always impressed us with their presence and it was a natural choice for us to pick that breed. A friend put us on to Southern Alberta Rottweiler Rescue (SARR) and only a few days later Michelle was interviewing us for an adoption.
Joey, as he came to be known, was a six-month-old male Rottweiler who was owned by somebody who figured he could make money with a Rottweiler litter. He soon discovered that there are more dogs that need homes than there are homes available, and he was unable to sell Joey. Kept in a garage at night and left outside during the day, Joey ran wild around the acreage until neighbours started complaining and SARR was asked to take him.
Although he didn't have an easy start in life, Joey came into our home as a perfect gentleman — a little rough around the edges but simply a great buddy with lots of potential. It was like he knew that he was finally home and would be given all the love that he deserves. On his first ride home he put his head on my shoulder and licked my ear — I was sold. Joey attended novice obedience classes in Calgary and we were happy to see his successful completion of the training.
Since Joey required significant exercise (a two-hour walk was only a warm-up!), we decided to adopt another Rottie to be a companion for Joey. A few days later I was back visiting Michelle at SARR, then Payton, the dangly legged four-month-old, was coming home with us. Payton has become a perfect lady and, even though she still carries some of the effects of the abuse from her prior life, she gives love till it hurts.
We have always though that Joey was something special and had more to give than your average 120-pound lap dog. When we arrived the Ottawa and found Ottawa Therapy Dogs we knew this was for us. We quickly joined and became active members in the organization. Joey and I volunteer weekly at the Bayfield Manor in Kemptville, Ontario. This facility is both long-term care and retirement, and we visit both.
The effect Joey has on the residents is amazing — people who are usually inactive will perk up and raise a hand to pat him on the head or rub his ears. The staff of Bayfield comment regularly how well the residents respond to Joey and how much they look forward to his visits. Joey loves his visits and especially the attention, and everybody loves Joey. To see how he affects the residents and staff is amazing. The gratification that it brings to me personally, to be holding the leash of my very special dog that makes peoples’ lives better, is overwhelming. This is becoming a highlight of my week, a way to unwind from the week at work and watch the rescued Rottie do his job, helping people.
Having my big buddy as a therapy dog, especially with his less-than-loving beginnings, really shows that no matter how dogs start out, they can be perfectly social and kind. I hope Joey can help many people in his visits to various seniors' homes and hospitals. Many thanks to Michelle and SARR — without her help and input we wouldn't have Joey or Payton, and our lives just wouldn’t be the same without them.
Rob & Big Joe