Winnie. Actually, her name is Wynsum – an English name that means joyful and pleasure. And although the name suits her perfectly, it did not capture her playful spirt, so she became “Winnie.” She is my confidant, work partner, companion and light of my life. Nothing makes me happier than to care and love her and I feel honored that she brightens the lives of so many people.
I know that I am biased but Winnie is a gift. She has an amazing ability to make people smile, bring comfort to those in tears and warm the hearts of those who meet her. We are constantly stopped on the street by admirers wanting to pet and hug her. I am showered with such comments: “if she was my dog, I would wake up happy everyday” or “thank you so much for letting me meet your dog” and “she is so full of love.” She is amazing with children, strangers and other dogs.
Winnie has been formally certified as a “Canine Good Citizen” and therapy dog. She greets her clients at the office door and waits patiently while they settle on the couch before taking her place in their arms and laps. When my client’s schedule their weekly appointments with me they are quick to confirm that Winnie will be present at their next session.
Early on in my career I decided I wanted a therapy dog to companion my work. A therapy dog is formally trained to provide comfort and affection to individuals in a variety of settings including retirement homes, schools, medical setting and hospices. Therapy dogs are different from service dogs because they primarily provide emotional support. After careful research, I decided to pursue a King Charles Clavier, best known for being lapdogs, people dogs and great therapy dogs. Finding Winnie was not an easy task – my first choice was to rescue a dog so I searched the shelters across Los Angeles looking for a King Charles Clavier. I did not realize how rarely the breed ended up in shelter or how high the demand was for these dogs. The adoption process was competitive and I was never selected because I worked outside of the home and at the time there was no one at home to care for her during the day until she completed her training.
Thank goodness for Craig’s List. One night, while browsing animal postings I found Winnie. I contacted the owner within one hour of posting and proceeded to write a long email about myself and why I wanted to adopt her dog. Within 2 hours the Craig’s list posting had been removed and I later learned that the owner was flooded with interest and had too many applicants. I was delighted to learn I was selected to love Winnie because of the details I shared about myself and the reason I wanted to adopt her.
A few years after Winnie and I were united I happen to run across an article describing a heart condition prevalent among King Charles Claviers. After realizing this condition could take her life at an early age I began to prematurely grieve her loss and my life without her. After a few days, I saw the irony in my pain. I am a grief counselor – I live in the land of loss and pain. I know that Winnie came into my life and the lives of my clients to share her love and teach us how to love in the moment. I don’t know how I will survive her loss, but I know that she is a constant reminder to love and live in the moment and that she has changed the way I see the world.
Winnie is a gift and it is my privilege and responsibility to share her. She has the ability to bring smiles to sad faces, encourage shy people to share and provide comfort and love to those in pain. I never thought a 4-legged friend would capture my heart in such a big way. She is my baby girl and I receive so much pleasure and love from our time together. I am blessed to share my life and career with her.