Mysti's Pet Stories

Da Juana Byrd

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Little sister Madeline

Samantha and her sweet moment

As a first-time owner of an English Cocker Spaniel, I have been delighted to discover what dear little dogs they are. I have also found out that dogs are a lot more work than cats. I've had to learn a new patience skills set, and tap new resources of energy. My family had dogs when I was growing up but, like most families, Mom had all the responsibility and the kids just had a good time.

Over the early months of my relationship with Samantha, I often heard that cockers were nasty little dogs, apt to nip a child or light into another family pet. You can imagine my concerns about cocker ownership upon hearing such tales of doom, especially in light of my having a cat, and a great nephew, Tyler, who was only one at the time.

However, as time has unfolded the reality of Samantha's character and disposition, I have stored up many wonderful memories of her gentleness and engaging ways that have won her over to so many, including my great nephew. Upon seeing her propensity for fun and loving interaction, I decided we would both do well to get involved in animal assisted therapy. We did our initial training with the Intermountain Therapy Animals organization, and became certified through the national organization, the Delta Society.

Our first outing was priceless.  It was Halloween Day, 1999. The R.E.A.D program requested teams to come to the King's English Bookstore in costume for a special Halloween reading party. I really did not understand what the program was, and Samantha had just been groomed (gorgeous) the day before, so we went sans costumes.  To my surprise, we encountered a number of children from Primary Children's Hospital Residential Living Center. This is a treatment and living center for children offering 24 hour psychiatric care and life coping skills. They were all such nice kids, cute in their costumes and excitement. The store was filled with Halloween storybooks featuring animals as the characters.

Samantha, as usual, was attracting a lot of attention…natural good looks I guess you could say. We sat down on the floor with a boy who was bigger than most of the other kids, and, as advised, I got Samantha to sit by the side of the boy, and facing towards him.

"Oscar the Wiener Dog" was the story of a young dachund who was always being teased by the other dogs. Making matters worse, his mother bought him a hotdog bun costume for Halloween. "Wiener dog, wiener dog" all the other dogs would laugh and run away.

Our dear reader struggled along. He finally sighed, turned to me and said, "I'm not a very good reader." It must be kind of hard to say that to someone, don't you think? I told him that Samantha and I thought he was doing a fine job and would be happy to help him with any words. And, besides, we weren't in any big hurry. So he took a deep breath and continued with the story.

As he returned to reading, Samantha looked directly at him (dare I say) with such compassion.  While still sitting, she leaned forward and licked the boy on the cheek, twice, slowly and tenderly. She then sat back and continued to listen. The boy wiped his cheek off with his hand as he finished reading.

Like many others who experience such events with their pets, I wonder how Samantha knew the needs of our young friend, and what to do about it.  Our being there made it safe for our friend to read aloud, it also made it safe to love.

By the way, before the story was over, Oscar the Weiner dog saved the day. I like to think Samantha saved the day for our young friend.


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