:In Honor Of My Therapy Dog:

Okay, so he may not really be a licensed, official therapy dog. But this little 7 lb malte-poo has really been therapeutic to my soul and body through the last four years. We may have rescued him from the shelter, but he has more than returned the favor in love, comfort, and joy. There are studies after studies that extol the benefits of having a pet, and more specifically a dog when someone has long-term physical difficulties and illness. But I don't need those studies to tell me what I already know...he makes me feel better, just by being next to me.

Here is a little about my Charlie Brown:

We adopted Charlie in September of 2007 from the SPCA of Central Florida. He was 9 years old. I walked by his kennel and he stuck his little face through the fence and my heart melted right then! We weren't looking for a "senior" dog but when he just jumped into my arms I KNEW I had to take him home. I can not even put into words the joy he has brought me through these last very rough years with all my spinal surgeries. He makes me smile every day, and I couldn't ask for a better dog! He is now a proud teenager, at 13 years old. 

I have a real heart for taking care of the creatures in our world, and I wasn't even aware of the amount of dogs and cats and other animals that are being overbred in "puppy mills" all over this country. 

Do a little research and please educate yourselves on this! A dog just like Charlie is put to sleep every day at the Orange County Animal Services here in Orlando. By the end of this year 12,000 or more will be put to sleep. And that is just here in Orlando. According to the Humane Society of the United States, every 8 seconds a dog or cat is put down, adding up to between 6 and 8 MILLION animals are killed every year in our country.

If you can, make a donation to your local no-kill shelter, or even better, go there and take one of those other "Charlies" home! 

Visit http://www.ohs-spca.org/ad​option.htm or http://apps.ocfl.net/dept/​CEsrvcs/animal/NetPets/Ove​rall.asp?NN=1&AT=D to view adoptable dogs and cats right now!

Don't feel ready to take on a dog or cat that may have some issues to work through because they have been mistreated or abandoned? Most shelters have puppies and kittens that need homes just as much as the older dogs and cats. Because many people fail to neuter or spay their animals, it is very common for stray animals to show up pregnant or with entire litters of puppies or kittens. Another option is to adopt from a shelter that takes dogs directly from their owners (like the SPCA here in Orlando) who are able to give a detailed background on the dog (or other animal), like whether they are good with children, chase cats, or are shy. That way you know a lot more about the dog or cat you're bringing into your home.

Think you can't find the kind of dog you're looking for at the pound or in a shelter? Charlie is a "malte-poo" a "designer" mix between a maltese and a poodle. If we had bought him as a puppy from a store or even a breeder, he would have cost well over $500 bucks. We got him for around $50 bucks (because he was a "senior" dog). Think shelter dogs have little to give, or are too hard to retrain? Check out this video by a band called OK Go filmed entirely with shelter dogs!

So where is a good place to look for your future therapy dog? Here are a few suggestions, and don't forget, Google is your friend. There are THOUSANDS of rescue groups all over the country that specialize in different breeds, sizes and ages. For just two examples, here is one that focuses on just Golden Retrievers, and here is another that focuses on small dogs.

+Your Local ASPCA Shelter (ASPCA.com)
+Petsmart Adoption Events
+Your Local Animal Services (ie. the pound)  

Update as of May 2014:
Our sweet Charlie passed away peacefully and painlessly in my arms at home. He was 17 years old, and we have treasured the last 7 years we have had with him. When I found him he was already almost 10 years old at the local SPCA here in Orlando, and he stole my heart. By adopting an older dog we knew we might not get as much time with him, but man, we hit the jackpot. He was incredibly sweet, loyal, great with kids, funny, bossy, and most importantly our first baby. He hated all other dogs, except for Alfredo and Uber, whom he tolerated with indifference. He loved cats. His favorite things to do were go for walks, eat anything that fell on the floor (or anything he could grab when you weren't looking), snuggle, and sit in the sunshine. He snored like a grown man, and loved having his belly rubbed. I'm pretty sure his favorite food was popcorn, and the only thing he wouldn't eat was fruit.

Losing him feels like we've lost a limb. I keep waiting to hear his little feet on the tile, or him barking to come back in from outside. He has been with us since we first got married, and was by my side through my awful four surgeries. He would spend all day with me on the couch when I was in horrible pain, and he encouraged me to take what little walks I could do because I knew he needed to get exercise. We took him with us EVERYWHERE we could, and he loved that. It's going to take a long time to adjust to the idea that he is not going to be waiting impatiently for us to get home (whether we were gone for 5 minutes or 30, he always acted like we had been gone for 10 days). He has been a huge part of our lives as a married couple, and was such a source of joy and comfort while we waited for our first fur-less baby, Jude.

Shelter dogs are amazing. If you are ever looking for a dog, please give one a chance. They just might change your life forever.
We will miss our faithful friend, and never forget the love he gave us.