therapy dogs

A Tribute to a Special Therapy Dog Named Preston.


While it is always heartbreaking and sad to say goodbye to our beloved furry pals, I wish to celebrate and honor the life of a special dog named Preston.

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, he was the love of Julie’s life. Preston, who brought her much joy and comfort. He filled a void in her heart as she and her husband tried unsuccessfully for years to have a baby.

As an elementary school teacher seeing how some of her 3rd graders struggled to read, she began a program for her class to help her students. It was called “Pages for Preston.”

Reading to a dog, like many similar programs around the US, helps kids feel less intimidated and more relaxed when they know they are reading to a dog. And Preston was the perfect companion for just that. Oh, the stories he was read in his lifetime!

My children’s books, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog & Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visit Libby’s House became books Julie’s students would read to Preston.

As a trained therapy dog through Therapy Dogs Inc., Julie also wanted to help others who wanted to do therapy dog work with their own dogs. She became a trainer/observer shortly after I met her when I did a presentation with Frankie for her classroom.

Julie and Preston would become the wonderful team that trained Frankie and me. It was such a special time that summer of 2008.

Working with Preston, Julie found it rewarding in giving back and making a difference as a therapy dog team. It helped take her mind off the fact that having a baby just didn’t seem to be in the cards for her.

I remember so well in August 2008 when Julie presented me with the official certificate certifying Frankie and me as a therapy dog team after our visits together to a nursing home. I felt so blessed to have worked with Julie and Preston. We had all formed a special friendship and I didn’t want our time together to end.

As we were riding in the elevator in the nursing home, I realized something different about Julie. A petite, small framed woman, she seemed “fuller” and was glowing. She would share with me that day that she was pregnant!

Preston, who provided love and understanding for Julie during those trying years, was also just what she needed in realizing that helping others in need served a far greater purpose than she could have ever known.

Julie and I remain friends. Because of our special connection and friendship, it seemed only fitting to me that Preston and her daughter, Lyla be a part of my children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House.

Frankie, me, Preston & Lyla

Preston’s legacy lives on in the book and I’m so honored to have been a part of his journey in doing this. But I also know without a doubt that Preston lives on in the hearts of the many children who read to him over the years. What a gift he was for those kids!

But most of all, he was the best friend to Julie who he adored and loved with all his heart… and it is Julie’s heart that is forever changed because of her beloved Preston.

Sally’s Impact on Me & Her Love of Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog

Frankies book2_v1c47Illustration from Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House children’s book

In Saturdays blog post I shared with you that Sally, a resident at Libby’s House (senior assisted living facility), who I had come to adore, passed away at the age of 100 earlier in May. The adoration was mutual as she loved it when Frankie came to visit. She would become quite animated watching Frankie roll into the main living room.

I was so touched by the friendship that transpired between the two that I wrote about them in my second children’s book, Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House. While all the residents were special, some just left an extra special mark on my heart that will always be there. Sally was absolutely one of those people.

As a tribute to her, I thought I’d share the part in my book where I wrote about her. To protect her privacy at the time, her name was changed to Lila. Her name after a dear friend (a therapy dog tester) who was pregnant with a little girl, who she would name Lila, while Frankie and I were training for her therapy dog certification.


The following month flowers are blooming with every color in the rainbow and people are outside cutting their grass. Kids are playing in the park. The warm wind blows my ears back as we drive to Libby’s House.

It is hard to know I won’t see Daniel anymore when I visit. But, I hold my head high as I roll through the front doors once again.

Patty is waiting to for us. She bends down to stroke my fur. “Frankie, there is someone new waiting to meet you,” she says happily.

“Her name is Lila, and she loves dogs. I have told her all about you and she is eager to visit with you.” Patty leads the way as Mom and I walk side by side.

Lila is siting in the chair where Daniel used to wait for me. Her hair is short and silver and her walker is resting next to the chair.

Patty quietly says to my mom, “It is hard to understand Lila when she talks, but she tries to communicate.”

Mom picks me up and kneels down in front of Lila. She rests the front of my paws on the arm of the chair while she holds the back of my wheelchair in her hands. Lila’s hands are shaking as she reaches out to pet my head. She looks deep into my eyes and chatters up a storm. I am not sure what she is saying, but my heart feels all warm and fuzzy again. I have made another new friend.

As I revisit the writing of this book again, I wrote it because I wanted young kids to not be afraid to visit the elderly in nursing homes. It can sometimes feel scary, but I wanted to make it feel less scary. To help them understand that sometimes older people are going through things just like they did when they were little. Sometimes needing help with brushing their teeth or needing help to remember to take their medicine.

Sally, and so many others, certainly taught me to appreciate life so much more. For that, I’m so grateful to each of them. And Sally showed me that even though she couldn’t communicate in words, it was her infectious smile and enthusiasm that conveyed to me how happy she truly was. Her connection with Frankie was such a gift and I’ll remember it always.

A Day of Joy & Unexpected Surprises at RCS. Great Way to (almost) Close Out 2013.

2013-12-31 08.56.06 e“Frankie’s” made my clients at RCS

On and off for quite some time we’ve been trying to make it happen that I would visit RCS. They are a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower individuals with disabilities and special needs so that they may work, live and function with dignity and respect. Originally, we had a time set up for me to visit with Frankie in July 2012. But then Frankie passed away June 21, 2012.

As they put their holiday programming together earlier this year, and with the help of my friend, Mary who works there, we finally set a date for Dec. 30th. We agreed I would read one or two of my Frankie children’s book to the clients. I had also sent them leftover posters and magnet sets I had of Joie after she passed away. I felt they would inspire their clients. We decided with my visit for the holiday programming it would be extra special if we handed them out then.

As it would also turn out, as many of you know, I also adopted Gidget mid-November. I didn’t promise anything because I wanted to be sure Gidget would be up for the visit. But I said if I felt she was, I’d bring her along to meet the clients.

2013-12-30 11.01.26 eShe was such a good little dog. I held her in my Take-a-Long bag as I read Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dot to the clients. I also brought Frankie and Joie’s wheelchair along so everyone could see what a dog wheelchair looks like and how it works. I then shared with them Gidget’s story.

After we were done with that, Gidget “helped” me sign posters and magnet sets as each client came up and chose which they would like. They also got to take a moment to pat Gidget on the head.  The whole time she was calm and relaxed.

My heart and world is always in awe and opens even more when I experience the lives of those living more challenged lives than most of us. To see the staff in action nurturing and taking care of those with special needs is something I define as grace. It takes very special hearts to do this line of work. It truly is with deep gratitude that I am thankful for what they do.

My heart was full of joy as everyone made their way to the tables set up for lunch. It was also then that two unexpected surprises came my way.

Mary asked if I had a few moments because they had some gifts for me. As I sat with Gidget in my lap, Mary presented me with a large bag. Inside was a big fleece blanket with a dachshund pattern on it. Mary and another co-worker, Emily, made it for me. I just love it!  As you can see in the photo below, Gidget made herself right at home on it when we got home later that morning.  She could barely keep her little eyes open from all the excitement of the morning.

IMG_1943 eAfter opening the blanket, Laura, the art therapist, who also brings her therapy dog, Shayla to RCS, said she had a gift for me, too.

She reached inside the bag and slowly pulled out items that were bubble wrapped. One by one she presented me with sketches she drew of Gidget, Joie, and Frankie.

2013-12-30 11.38.17 eI was moved to tears as Mary said, “Now you have all three of your girls together.”  No words can truly describe what this gift means to me from one dog lover to another. Laura also knows the depth of working with our beloved dogs as therapy dogs, and the impact that has forever on our hearts.

Laura’s work is simply amazing. She really captured the spirit of each of my girls. A gift I will treasure always.

2013-12-31 09.25.31 eAs I drove home yesterday I was reminded of the magic when we live from the center of our hearts. About giving without expecting anything in return,and giving for the pure joy of wanting to. 

My time at RCS is also a reminder to me of all the good I have in what I define as my simple and meaningful life. I’m grateful for quiet moments reading or writing, time talking with John in front of our woodstove during the winter, or in front of our chiminea on the deck in summer. Walks with Kylie and Gidget, as well as plenty of snuggle time…. and the list of my simple pleasures goes on and on.

2013-12-30 11.38.49 eMary, me and Laura

But I leave you this last day of 2013 with the one thing I wish for everyone… and that is to sit in the silence of your heart and listen to what it is you really want. Then begin today to take steps, whether large or small, to live from that desire of your hearts whispers.

**I invite you to learn more about Laura Griffin’s art work on her website at Griffin Animals Graffics.**