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Kirby and Benny: From “Hard to Adopt” to Star Therapy Dogs

Medical and emotional problems didn’t keep Kirby and Benny from becoming star therapy dogs for proud Mom, Sue Grundfest.

Submitted by Sue Grundfest, Instructor and Evaluator for Delta Society Pet Partners 

Kirby and Benny are very special dogs. Both came to me from Heaven Can Wait’s Pups on Parole program and both were considered “hard to adopt” dogs.

As an Instructor and Evaluator for Delta Society’s Pet Partners animal-assisted therapy program, I know exactly what we look for in potential therapy dogs. It has nothing to do with breed or size or appearance. It has everything to do with temperament, heart and soul.

I met Kirby when I was looking for a companion for Coco the Love Dog. Coco was twelve and starting to slow down and was blind, deaf and an insulin-dependent diabetic. I wanted time for a new dog to learn from Coco as she was one of the greatest therapy dogs. So when we had the opportunity to meet Kirby, I knew he had some medical issues. I knew he had been found on the street and was an older boy. I knew he had some health problems. I knew he would require lots of attention and financial support. But once I met him I also knew he was perfect! Kirby is the sweetest dog imaginable, and the bravest.

He had eye surgeries, bladder surgery, hip surgery and smiled throughout every procedure. He loved Coco from the first meeting and assumed the role of her protector. He could guide her as we walked and let her smell him to know where to step and do her business. He even started alerting to her low sugar and seizures so I would know to help her as little Kirby barked and circled her as the alert.

Kirby became a Delta Pet Partner and worked alongside Coco and helped me teach other teams what it takes to work with our unique programs. He loved every human and every animal he met along the way.

But Kirby had taken care of Coco her last years of her life and when she left us, he was so sad and devastated. But it was too soon to look for another dog, or so I thought.

Who could resist Benny's smiling face?

Just seven days after losing Coco, I got a call from Heaven Can Wait to come meet a little poodle that had been returned several times. He was now shut down and wanted nothing to do with people. While I did not feel we were ready to bring another dog into our home, I went as a dog trainer to meet this little guy and see if I could assess his behavior and make some suggestions to bring him out of his shell.

Well, just as I had found with Kirby, as soon as we met I knew I had to have him. He belonged in our family, so Benny was one more “hard to adopt” dog that found his forever home because of Coco’s legacy.

Whereas Kirby had medical issues, Benny had emotional and behavioral challenges. It took three months of positive training to unlock his demons. But he always had the “look” we want in therapy dogs and he soon learned to trust and love big. After just six months he also became a Delta Pet Partner and is now working almost every day.

Both Kirby and Benny are a huge part of our Love Dog Adventures team and especially critical to the success of our educational programs. They teach about rescue and older dogs and dogs with special needs and patience and empathy and love.

Benny and Kirby work almost every day as therapy dogs.From hard to adopt to family members and best buddies. You never know what a dog can achieve if you give them a chance.

You can adopt your own star cat or pup at Heaven Can Wait’s pet adoptions each weekend.  Cat adoptions are Thursday – Sunday and dog adoptions are each Saturday inside PetSmart off I-215 and S. Rainbow in the Arroyo Crossing Center.  Or check out our cats and dogs at: www.hcws.org 

Benny and Kirby - BFF.


3 Responses

  1. Congratulations to the Three Musketeers! What a fabulous story of how love triumphs of all obstacles!!!

  2. What a wonderful uplifting story. 😀 Thanks for sharing. ❤

  3. […]  http://hcwsblog.org/2011/12/04/kirby-and-benny-from-hard-to-adopt-to-star-therapy-dogs/ […]

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