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It Started with a Phone Call

by Virginia Davis
reprinted from NewfTide 1Q 2009

Loey Lee was named for my grandmother, because we brought Loey home on what would have been her 96th birthday. My grandmother, Loey, died when I was two years old, but I have always felt a special bond with her. Although Loey was a certified therapy dog, I had no plans on where to work with her. One day I received a phone call from a Ph.D. at Butler University asking me if I knew of anyone with a Newfoundland who would be interested in participating in a study involving children at The Indiana School for the Deaf, The Indianapolis Zoo, and Butler University. I decided we could do it.

Loey and I made trips twice a week to the Deaf School. There were four children, between the ages of 11 and 13, involved in the study. Because each child was so different, I decided it was time to trust in Loey and watch what she would do.

Octavia, beautiful little Octavia. So shy at first. Loey lay at her side, and Octavia hesitantly brushed her. We smiled; I massaged Loey and before long Octavia was rubbing her too. As the weeks went by, Octavia was walking Loey up and down the halls as if she were her own dog. She had a huge smile, and I sensed that there was a real accomplishment in those walks.

William, a little boy with a tracheotomy. William was initially rather brusque. When he discovered the ball I brought, he started throwing it up and down the hall for Loey. Although Loey had no interest in retrieving a ball, she would run up and down the hall at William’s side for 20 minutes. One day, the thrown ball landed in the boy’s bathroom, and William and Loey had to go into the bathroom to retrieve it. That brought a largest smile I ever saw on William’s face! From then on, he aimed for the bathroom.

Matthew, with his sparkling eyes. I had been given the impression that he had a rather short attention span. What did he want? He wanted to have Loey to lie on her side with her head in his lap. Frequently, he would look at the pictures I had of Loey as a puppy and with our other dogs; then he would lay with his head on her and snuggle in. It was as if all he wanted was the security Loey offered, one-on-one with this gentle giant.

Dustin, shy smiling Dustin. The first time they met it was clear that he was unsure, not afraid, just unsure. Loey went to his spot at the table and sat next to his stool. She just sat patiently—quite different behavior from my usual wiggling girl. Her persistence was rewarded when Dustin reached out to touch her head ever so gently. She seemed to be an enigma to him. He sat and looked at her with curiosity; she returned his attention with yet more patience and loving brown eyes.

These children were wonderful. These children were deaf. My communication skills with them were very limited, but Loey’s were unlimited. She opened up each child in her own way. She had the ability, the gift, to speak a language called love that uses no words and knows no boundaries.

It is not the little yellow tag she wore on her collar that read “I am a Therapy Dog” that made me proud of her. It was watching her be a therapy dog that made me so intensely proud of her. Wonderful Loey Lee connected me to people and opened up a whole world that would have never been known if it were not for her.

Loey has since passed on. However, somehow, I know the time she spent with these children made a lasting impression.







reprinted from 1Q NewfTide 2009 pp 11- 21






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