Service With A Smile

June 24, 2020

One month after our baby Jeffrey was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, I met Cindy Schaefer on an SMA message board. Her son, BioNews Services columnist and forums director Kevin Schaefer, was diagnosed with type 2 SMA a couple years before that. During our first actual meeting, Kevin zipped around expertly in his new, shiny, red wheelchair. He was barely 4.

Although our respective realities of SMA differed, Cindy and I bonded like old friends reunited. After Jeffrey’s death, we continued exchanging stories about our families. She kept me posted on Kevin’s progress — and SMA’s.

I grew up with pets. My family always had a dog (or two) and a cat (or two). We also had a couple of tiny turtles once and a shoebox of mussels I lugged home from a beach vacation one blistering Texas summer. While the gag-inducing burial for the mussels was prompt upon our return home, it was not soon enough.

When my husband, Randy, and I married, I looked forward to getting our first pet. Randy claimed cats made him sneeze, so I presumed we’d start with a puppy. Wrong! Randy brought home the first pet of what turned into an ongoing list throughout the years: an adorable, multicolored, swirly-haired guinea pig.

When Ethyl was freed on occasion from his elaborate quarters, he had the run of the place. His squeals signaled his sprint-waddle to the kitchen for a slice of tomato, which he dragged merrily back down the hall and under our bed for consumption.

Our family grew. Randy rescued Jacob, a gorgeous keeshond puppy, from an unappreciative home. Maude, an abandoned and goofy springer spaniel, joined us in relatively short order. Our first three furballs coexisted mostly uneventfully and provided years of plentiful joy.

By the time the last of this trio of fur kiddos crossed the Rainbow Bridge, our expanding family included children of the two-legged variety, Matthew and Katie. We then moved and hit the local pound for new family members, Nellie and Duffy. Golden retriever and German shepherd mixes, they were from the same litter. Getting both seemed sensible at the time.

Pandy’s life as a service dog provided plenty of memorable moments for Kevin. Cindy reported that the furry helper was a natural conversation starter on college campus. Although a Lab mix, Pandy didn’t love water, but she loved life. She loved Kevin more. Once we moved to our present old farmhouse, Nellie continued her role as a social butterfly. She was crazy about people and being pampered, and she loved the pond, where she hunted for frogs at any and all opportunities. Team Kevin and Pandy accomplished much, including graduation from NC State University. As Pandy eased slowly into retirement, Kevin acquired a JACO robotic arm. This phenomenal, life-changing tool provided Kevin with enhanced independence, enabling Pandy to enjoy the perks of a simple family dog’s life.

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    January 8, 2021

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    January 8, 2021

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    January 8, 2021

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    January 7, 2021

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    January 7, 2021

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    January 7, 2021

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more

    Police Dog Attack

    January 7, 2021

    A resolution headed to the Duluth City Council on Monday could put to rest a lawsuit filed by Teri Lynn Ehlers, an employee of the Patch Motel, who was bitten by a Duluth police dog named Oakley. Former Duluth Police Officer Marc Johnson was a registered guest of the Warroad establishment May 28, 2018, when […]

    Read more

    PAWS With A Cause

    January 7, 2021

    Pebble Hill Plantation and the Thomas County Public Library are pleased to announce the upcoming Enlightening Bites program, “PAWS With a Cause,” on Friday, January 8, 2021 at noon in the Flipper Room of the Library. The program is being presented by Jeri Anderson, field representative. Anderson is recently retired from the City of Monticello, […]

    Read more

    Police Canine Team

    January 7, 2021

    Kingston Police revealed in a news release late Wednesday afternoon that they’ve been keeping a four-legged secret for roughly three months. The force announced it added a second canine unit, with the arrival of police service dog Dak this past October. He is working with Const. Jeff Dickson, while police service dog Bask is working […]

    Read more

    K9s For Warriors

    January 7, 2021

    K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides military veterans suffering from severe PTSD, traumatic brain injury and military sexual trauma with service animals, recently changed the name of its main campus to honor its leader and founder Shari Duval. Duval began K9s For Warriors in 2011 after her son returned from two tours in […]

    Read more

    More Recent News