Bear is an 10-year-old Lab/Dane mix. When we lost my daughter’s dog Rosa at just 8 years old, we did the unthinkable… We went to the county shelter. My daughter was absolutely devastated, and I wanted so much to give her a dog to comfort her. She looked at several dogs, but overlooked a very sad looking dog sitting in the back of his cage.

I finally convinced her to let him out and give him a walk. When we went outside, she sat on a bench and starting crying. Bear climbed right up on the bench next to her and licked away her tears. I knew in that moment that he was coming home with us.

Poor Bear had been in the shelter so long that his adoption fee was just $15! He sat in my lap while my daughter filled out her first set of adoption papers. He was a little under weight at 85 pounds but still a little too big to be sitting in my lap! He was just so happy and so sweet.

We ended up being the in middle of the worst eighteen months of our lives. We had already lost a horse, my grandmother, my father, and our Rosa. Shortly after we lost my brother as well. Bear was a faithful companion through all the grief and healing. Of course, he ended up being very much my dog, and my daughter adopted herself another dog that Spring.

Bear inspired a turning point in my relationship with dogs. Before Bear, dog training had always just been about keeping our rescue dogs from getting in trouble at home and in public. But Bear had given us so much that I wanted to give him something… A job of his own.

It was clear from day one that he was born to be a therapy dog. I found a great local trainer who raises AKC Wheaton Terriers and competes in AKC Obedience. Bear and I went to work on his obedience and my handling skills. I joined Pet Partners and started learning about what it took to be a therapy team.

Since it was my first time training a dog for a job, we had some hiccups along the way. We failed our first test, because Bear was just a little too excited to see people and another dog when we started out test. But we did it, and Bear had a very successful career working with special education programs and reading programs.

Sadly, he wasn’t able to do much during Covid restrictions. Before restrictions were lifted, we had to make the difficult decision to retire him. He’s losing his sight and is having trouble getting in and out of the car these days.

Through him, I learned about the AKC Canine Partners Program and was inspired to give all my rescue dogs jobs. He and I have had a great run together, and I’m grateful to be able to give him a very happy retirement. I’m currently recovering from a brown recluse bite, and Bear and I have enjoyed some great snuggles.

He is hands down the best $15 dollars I’ve ever spent!

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