The story of “Willow” by Amy H.
I had lived away from Buffalo for many years but returned home about three years ago when my mom needed to get a transplant. We talked about getting a dog to help the family with everything that was going on and to also be a good companion for my mom. Unfortunately, with her medical problems, she is very limited to what type of animals she can be around- we knew it had to be a hypoallergenic and very clean, very mild mannered, very well trained dog... which is like finding a needle in a haystack.
We knew we wanted to adopt, we checked the shelters and adoption events constantly, but couldn't find anything that really suited our needs. Randomly, one day, I decided to just check craigslist. It kept popping up in internet searches for adoptable dogs. I scrolled through and found an ad for a family that was going through a divorce and had to re-home their two year old springer-doodle. She was shaved down in the picture and looked absolutely nothing like she does now. She was described as mild mannered and she was hypoallergenic so I decided to call the owner. I spoke to the woman for half an hour on the phone and the dog she described sounded like the perfect fit! The only problem was she lived half an hour away and already about five other inquiries about the dog. As she put it, "first come, first serve."
So I jumped in the car right away and drove over to meet Willow. She was the sweetest, gentlest dog I have ever met and within an hour she came home with me. It wasn't until after I had gotten her home did I discover not only was she covered in fleas, but she clearly wasn't cared for the way she should have been. She was covered in bites and scabs and probably suffering more than she let on. I had her treated that night and decided no matter what, she was going to stay with us so she could be taken care of properly.
Willow was the absolute perfect fit, she was just so kind and loving from the minute she came to us, covered in fleas- and she really helped my mom as well. That's when and why I decided to start training with her to do therapy work. We initially started in a basic training class. Then I had a consultation with the teacher who agreed that Willow would make a fantastic working dog. We moved on to intermediate training. After she passed her Canine Good Citizen test, Willow, was accepted into a therapy dog training course. We spent a few months teaching her how to interact with various people. Then, how to respond to various stimuli (sights, smells, sounds, etc) and after finishing the class we decided to join a local organization called "Paws for Love". Willow had to be tested in order to be accepted into the program and she passed with flying colors.
Willow has had her therapy certification for a little over a year now (as of August 2018) and she has completed over 60+ visits around Buffalo. She has also gained her AKC therapy title, which is nationally recognized. Willow visits the local nursing home each week, where she goes room to room allowing the residents to pets, kiss, hug and love all over her. She also goes downtown to visit the employees of the department of Social Services, as their jobs can often be very difficult. During the school year, she participates in a reading program at our local elementary school where children with learning disabilities get to sit and read to her. They absolutely love it! Willow has also done college exam stress relief visits, even a career day at a school where we got to talk about the work she does in the community!
Willow has just been such a blessing to us and to everyone she visits. We were so lucky to get her just by chance with a craigslist ad. We are so happy to share her with the community and give back.
Willow even has a her own facebook page called "Where's Willow", where we chronicle her visits so people can follow her.
Over the past few years, I've worked with some awesome dogs and some of the most incredible people. Every time I think it can't possibly get any better, it does!
I received a call from a young man, Andrew, asking if he could purchase a session as a gift for a friend. "Of course", I said, what an amazing gift to give someone. We all have well-meaning friends and family, but lets be honest, rarely do we actually get what we need. Much less, what we want... Giving someone the gift of a beautiful memory is a gift that will last forever. The sad truth is, our pets aren't with us forever, but lets move on, this post isn't supposed to be sad or depressing...
Andrew told me all about Willow and how her human takes her all over Western New York as a therapy dog. He continued on telling me how sweet and well behaved she was. "Yeah right!", I'm thinking in my head. I hear this nearly every time I have a pet session. The sessions usually end with "I'm so sorry, 'fido' isn't normally like this..." Wow, I couldn't have been more wrong with Willow! I greeted Willow, Amy and Andrew outside. Willow showed up in her pretty pink and white bows all ready for her session. Soon after, we made our way to my home-studio. Willow was a willing model. Her only goal was to make the humans happy. "Sit", she sat. "Down", she laid down. "Bang", she played dead. It did takes some coaxing to get her on the half wine barrel I use, but a few firm commands and a few treats, up she went! The session went very well, I honestly can't think of any that went better. The images are absolutely stunning!! Amy is going to have tough time selecting her favorites.
Thank you Amy, Andrew and of course, Ms Willow. I had a blast working with you. I hope we have the opportunity to work together again!!