I was very saddened to receive an email over the weekend from my friend, Laura, who is the founder and director of an extraordinary therapy dog company in Wisconsin called, Health Heelers. She started her work with therapy dogs because of her beloved Savard. He passed away on Monday, July 11th. Laura sent out this tribute about her amazing, beautiful boy and I asked her if I could share with my readers. She was honored, so I share her tribute below. Thank you, Savard for your dedication and love to so many… you will be very much missed.
Monday, July 11th, 2011~ part of my spirit died that day . . .
Undoubtedly one of the most difficult days in my life, I said so-long to the most incredible creature I have ever had the honor to share life with; Savard, our beloved German Shepherd.
I owe Savard much credit for who I am and what I do; for it is because of Savard that I was able to create my passion in the form of Health Heelers.
Savard loved everybody and everything!
Unfortunately, Savard was a very misunderstood dog when he came into our home as an adopted, untrained juvenile in 1998. His delight and over exuberance for everything was a challenge! Could he ever become a therapy dog?!?!?! Fortunately, I consulted with some of the best in the dog behavior field including Suzanne Clothier, world-renowned behavior and German Shepherd expert. I learned that Savard’s behavior was out of sheer enthusiasm and zest for all that was good and all that he could make more joyful. Suzanne’s assessment made me realize how much more I needed to learn. My error inspired me to earn over 100 credit hours at seminars and workshops on dog behavior and dog training as I continue my quest for knowledge so that I may be a strong advocate for all of the therapy dogs in my programs.
Savard, Laura and Suzanne
Savard did become what I and many others consider a ‘Master’ therapy dog; unbelievably calm and incredibly steady & tolerant, and always with a smile for his ‘patient’. And it was Savard that made me realize the tremendous impact a dog like him, so full of joy and compassion, could make to people outside the walls of the health care facility where I’d started our first animal-assisted therapy program, because in 2005 Savard spent time entertaining children and comforting adults displaced to Wisconsin after they’d experienced the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Witnessing the “unweighting” that seemed to happen to them as a result of his presence, I began to think of more ways that I could use my education in Animal Assisted Therapy to bring the benefits of therapy animals to far more people than just those in health care institutions. Health Heelers became official that year.
Savard also had a great sense of humor! He knew how to make us laugh and smile. Throughout his life he frequently demonstrated his affinity for making arrangements out of the pet food dishes and toys~ dozens of them; and would even create arrangements when I asked him to!
(the arrangements of the red rings, Savard made by selecting those 3 objects from his basket of 28 various toys and other objects including the yellow, green and blue fisher-price rings)
Mostly though, my Joy Boy, Savard taught me how completely, fully and deeply creatures of two different species can care for, learn from, love and support one another to lead lives that provide service and compassion to others.
I know it’s an overused cliché, but Savard was truly my most special, one in a million dog. I will forever be grateful for all that he taught me and all that he gave. He was my heart.
Thank you, Savard! I love you so. ~Laura