Each week this column will feature a different member of the Love Dog animal assisted therapy team, a Pet Partner Community Partner program in Las Vegas.
We have to kick it off with Coco as she started it all.
Almost twenty years ago a little dog named Coco began her journey to therapy dog. Along the way she lived with many challenges herself, including being an insulin-dependent diabetic, losing her sight and hearing and having severe allergies. Coco was even allergic to human dander!
But no dog could teach us so much. She worked with people living with severe trauma and physical and emotional challenges, blind and vision impaired youth, adults living with HIV and AIDS, and anyone who needed her. She "taught" a class with her mom at their adopted school and attracted many fans along the way.
Coco was actually named by a little girl who herself could not see. It became apparent to me one day that as the children grew up, Coco got older. As the children became more independent, Coco became more dependent. As the children gained more and more skills, Coco lost more and more.
Coco used to love to go down the little slide with the sightless children. They would position themselves along the side and make sure she didn't fall. And they would catch her at the end. Even the most fearful child would try the slide after seeing brave Coco do it.
Then one day Coco just laid down on the stop little shelf and fell asleep. No more slides for her. I asked the children if she should learn to do other things that were easier for her and one beautiful little girl, sightless herself, said "No Miss Sue. Coco doesn't have to DO anything. She is the Love Dog and that's all she has to do - love us."
Coco moved to Las Vegas when she was a senior lady and brought her special healing to her new home. She welcomed Kirby into her home and taught him everything she knew about being a therapy dog and "retired" just until three weeks before she passed away.
The legacy of Coco the Love Dog lives on in countless dogs and other animals that share her caring and love for all living beings and follow in her paw-steps.
You will meet them all!