Chopper the Biker Dog, San Diego’s Beloved Celebrity

If you live in the San Diego vicinity, no doubt at some point you’ve seen a little Boston Terrier dressed up as a biker in a black leather vest, biker goggles, sporting a “doo rag”, bandana around his neck, and riding a miniature motorcycle that looks like a pint-sized Harley Davidson. He’s always with his “dad”, Mark Shaffer, a man with a heart so big, and so kind, one wonders if he wasn’t born with two. Mark and his dog, Chopper, define the term “earth angel.” They do more good for people in one year than most people do in a lifetime.

Mark and Chopper’s story began eight years ago, when Mark acquired him as a three-month-old puppy. A year before, Mark had lost his first Boston Terrier, Bandit, to cancer. Losing Bandit, who had been his biker buddy, hit him hard. Once he healed, Chopper came into his life. Though Chopper was a cute little tike, Mark wasn’t sure if he would take to the miniature motorcycle that Bandit used to ride. A month later, a local organization called The Nice Guys, invited Mark and Chopper to their annual Christmas party where they give out gifts and food to people in need. Mark used to attend every year with Bandit. He had no idea how Chopper would react to the bike, if he would even get on it.

“I took Chopper and the little motorcycle, the goggles and his little Harley T-shirt, put him on the motorcycle and he rode that little motorcycle just like he knew what to do,” Mark remembers. “It was his first time and he never tried to hop off. Who knows, maybe Bandit’s spirit was riding with him.”

Mark knew then and there that he and Chopper could continue what he started with Bandit.

Initially, Chopper rode Bandit’s bike, then some fans from Florida came to town and asked to meet Chopper. The husband was an engineer and wanted to create a new bike, just for Chopper. The man returned home, bought a little bike, took it apart and rebuilt it to look like Mark’s Harley, all at his own expense. He customized the paint, added LED lights, a sophisticated remote-control system, and better steering control. It was going to cost $800 to ship the bike to San Diego. Not to be deterred, Mark and the engineer raised the funds online to pay the cost.

The two pals attend about a dozen fundraising events a year to support their favorite charities. Events like the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Breast Cancer Walk, Tip a Cop, the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run, where cops carry a torch from Chula Vista to Los Angeles, the Law Enforcement Teddy Bear Drive for Rady Children’s Hospital, and the Hornblower Cruise to help raise money and blankets for the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter.  That sounds like a lot, but that’s just a part of what they do. When they’re not attending events, they make about 30 visits annually to patients in local hospitals, nursing homes, memory care centers and hospice, including visits to our local veterans. As a certified therapy dog, Chopper brings smiles to patients’ faces when he rides his mini motorcycle into their rooms, dressed in his leather duds. Once the chuckles die down, he gets onto the patients’ beds, curls up and snuggles with them, imbuing them with therapeutic doggie love.

Chopper has fans everywhere, especially in the law enforcement community. Check out the video of the day Chopper got stopped by a San Diego policeman here. The two buddies have an affinity for law enforcement and the military; if Mark hears about a need, he and Chopper make it a point to visit before anyone asks. One particular law enforcement officer story stands out in Mark’s memory.

“A deputy sheriff and his wife from Oregon were vacationing in Mexico when they stepped out of their hotel and were run over by a car,” Mark says. “When the police arrived, the wife was in such bad shape they covered her with a sheet, signifying she was dead. They soon discovered she was alive, barely. The couple was transported to a trauma unit in San Diego.”

As soon as Mark learned of the tragedy by the Eugene Sheriff’s Department, Mark scheduled his first visit. The husband had already been air-lifted back to Eugene, while the wife stayed hospitalized in San Diego. Chopper and Mark began visiting her as often as possible, Chopper curling up next to her on the bed. When they arrived for their second visit, the woman’s brother met them in the hospital lobby and told Mark that she suffered so much brain damage that she wouldn’t remember them when they entered the room. However, when Chopper rolled in on his motorcycle, the woman pulled herself up off her pillow and said, “Chopper, buddy!”

“All her relatives in the room broke out in tears, because it proved that her brain was healing and her cognition was coming back. Chopper gave them hope that she would recover,” he says.

The day Mark learned that the wife was going home, he called San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who gave her blessing to do whatever Mark planned to help support the Deputy’s wife. Mark arranged to have six San Diego police officers and two California Highway Patrol officers, escort her from her hospital room to the waiting ambulance. Once secured inside, the Highway Patrol escorted the ambulance to the airport with their lights going all the way.

“We wanted her and her family to leave San Diego with ‘respect’ and something positive,” Mark says. “She was life flighted home with doctors on board.”

Two years later Mark and Chopper took a trip up the coastline, stopping to visit patients in memory care centers, hospitals, veterans, police officers and nursing homes along the way. The trip ended in Eugene, Oregon where after two years, he and Chopper were reunited over dinner with the now retired deputy sheriff, his wife and their family.

“It was a very emotional reunion,” Mark recalls.

Then he received a call from a local television station telling him that a man phoned the station because he heard that Chopper was in town and the man’s daughter wanted to meet the canine celebrity. The station directed Mark to the school where they found the entire student body waiting for them in front. He learned that about the time the deputy sheriff and his wife were injured, the girl had been given a class assignment to write about a hero, but it couldn’t be an entertainment celebrity. The girl had heard about what Chopper had been doing for the wife of their local Deputy and wrote her school paper about Chopper.

While that was one of the big ones, Mark could fill an encyclopedia with stories about what Chopper’s presence has meant to people, how his very being comforts and soothes like a balm. From hospitalized law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty, to family members in nursing homes grieving the loss of a loved one, to patients in memory care centers whose faces light up when they see the quirky little dog in biker leathers ride in on his customized motorcycle, Chopper makes an impact wherever he goes.

In San Diego, Chopper is more than a local celebrity, he has built a world-wide fandom through social media, (over 117,000 followers on Facebook and growing) and not just because he’s adorable in his biker outfit and sports a biker-dude persona. More importantly, he is known for his unflagging work ethic and the immeasurable hours of volunteering in the community, never asking for anything in return. It’s easy to get caught up in Chopper the legend. After all, he is really, really, cute and as sweet as a dog can be. Sometimes people don’t realize, or they forget that the extraordinary little dog in leather biker duds is one half of a duo. A selfless man and his selfless dog who spend their free time doing good. And if that isn’t the best example of The Goodness Principle, I don’t know what is. I’ll tell you this much, San Diego is proud to call them our own.

Want to learn more about Chopper? Be sure to visit his Facebook page here,  and his website here.

Hailey, the Extraordinary Kid Caregiver

Hailey 3

There are good people everywhere, and then there are remarkable people like Hailey, who takes care of her grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Not so unusual? Actually, it’s quite unusual because Hailey is nine years old and began caring for her beloved grandmother at the age of four. She adores her grandmother and has gone to extraordinary lengths to give her the best life possible.

What you may ask can a child do for an aging grandparent with such a challenging disease? Well, let me tell you. This child, who is as insightful as someone 50 years her senior, makes her grandmother’s world an easier place to live in, and one where she knows she is loved, deeply loved. How does Hailey get through, how does she communicate with her?

Hailey 5“I manage it by doing puzzles with my Grandma,” Hailey says. “Even if we don’t solve it exactly right it still makes Grandma happy.”

Hailey’s mom, Emma, says that her mother is still able to speak and she still recognizes them. That’s a big deal when it comes to dementia; there is nothing so heartbreaking as your loved one not knowing who you are. Emma says they are grateful, while acknowledging that there are other behaviors associated with the disease that can be difficult at times, such as frequent repeating. Anyone who has spent time around someone with Alzheimer’s knows that repeating is one of the more taxing aspects of the disease. It can be incredibly frustrating. Leave it to a nine year-old to come up with an effective tactic.

Hailey explains, “When Grandma keeps repeating herself I usually talk about a different Hailey 1subject, I say words she can’t repeat, like I say ‘I love you, Grandma’. Or I ask her a question.”

As her mother plunged into dementia Emma looked, but didn’t find any books for kids that would lend support; books that might help them cope. When it became quite apparent that Hailey had figured out a few innovative ways on her own Emma encouraged Hailey to create something that would help other kids navigate the caregiving waters.

“I started thinking that I needed a blog to help kids, so that they know they’re not alone and show them ways that they could care for their loved ones,” Hailey says. “On April 5th it was published.”

Emma set up the blog for Hailey, who took it over. She uses the hunt and peck system and for smaller entries she completely types it on her own. Emma, a teacher, proofreads and edits if necessary. Sometimes Hailey dictates entries to Emma who types it for her. Emma emphasizes that Hailey definitely does most of it on her own. Hailey comes up with posts, such as her caregiving tips and strategies. She’s even featured her friend, Katie, as a guest blogger. The blog has become a passion for Hailey and for her mother, too. The following post that Emma wrote on Hailey’s blog explains why it was so important to launch the blog and the new community it is building:

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving there are at least 1.3 million children between the ages of 8 and 18 who are caregivers. Hailey realized that children can make a big difference in the world. Unfortunately, Hailey and I had difficulty finding other kids who are going through the same thing as Hailey. There were times, when Hailey would have loved to know that there were other kids “out there”; who are also going through similar experiences. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”, so Hailey created the type of support group that she would have loved for herself. Her goal is for kids to have a platform to share ideas, offer tips, and get advice. She shares her experiences, to model for other kids.  Kid Caregivers is in its infancy, since the seed was launched in February (2016). I am excited to report that there are readers from: India, Africa, Greece, Germany, Israel, Russia, UK and the United States. Clearly caregiving is a worldwide issue and for children a very sensitive one. Her goal is to let other kids know that they are not alone. Hopefully, her dream of reaching “hundreds” of kids will become a reality.

Hailey 4Hailey’s efforts don’t stop there. She is the Assistant Director of Puzzles to Remember, an organization that provides puzzles to seniors in various types of facilities. And then there’s a prototype she’s working on called the Memory Walker Alert. Not long ago her grandmother forgot to use her walker one day, fell, suffered a subdural hematoma and broke her hip. Hailey reports that her grandmother had to have surgery and is doing much better. But the incident disturbed Hailey; she wanted to figure out a way to get people with dementia to use their walkers. Emma told Hailey about a device called a proximity sensor. Though not an engineer, Hailey is working on a dual-sensor system where one sensor would attach to the walker and the other would attach to the senior. If the senior steps too far away from the walker it would give off a voice command “Walker! Use your walker!” and a sound would beep image source. As Emma is quick to point out, Hailey does not know how to build the circuitry, but she understands the mechanics behind it. She’s already sketched out her idea.

Hailey 2“As the adults, her father and I are trying to figure out how it can be done,” Emma says. “She came up with the seed of the idea. She told me ‘we need to come up with some kind of alarm system, Mommy, so Grandma doesn’t leave the walker.’ We showed her various videos of proximity sensors and she’s been working on it” Emma says proudly.

At the center of Hailey’s mission is heart. A big heart. Most children are content to play and be a kid. Hailey is a different kind of soul. Of course she is a kid, and does all the usual kid things, but she also has a rare vision not often seen in a nine year-old. That vision means both making life better for her grandmother and helping other children, showing them that they’re not alone in caring for someone they love. If her blog accomplishes that one task, if it helps just one child, she will be elated, because all the effort will have been worth it.

For more information visit Hailey’s Kid Caregivers blog and her FaceBook page.

Be sure to watch the music video Stay for a Little While. Written by David Light and Bakhus Saba, it reflects on how children connect with dementia patients and features several photos of Hailey and her grandma.

The Jelly Girls

When inconcJelly Girls Marjorie and Debbieeivable tragedies hit two friends just months apart, it was their art that brought them through their shared grief and back into the light. Silk painting artist Marjorie Pezzoli’s 19 year-old daughter died in an accidental drowning at La Jolla Cove in January of 2013.
Five months before, the boyfriend of glass artist Debbie Solan committed suicide; Debbie found him. Where do you go after that? How do you move on and get our life back? Can you ever really get your life back as you knew it?

Marjorie and Debb were already working on a fundraiser, Palette to Palette, sponsored by the San Diego Visual Arts Network (SDVAN) and San Diego Synergy Art Foundation (SAF). Proceeds benefitted an arts education program at Kimbrough Elementary School, in collaboration with Feeding America San Diego and Young Audiences, as well as ongoing programs of SDVAN and SAF. All very noble, and a distraction, but hard to see the good when tragedy has just taken your joy away. Marjorie and Debbie powered through it as best they could for the greater good, to improve the lives of others.

The diversion of another project probably helped too. They were deep into Sea Changes, part of “The DNA of Creativity”, an idea fostered by SDVAN founder, Patricia Frischer. The endeavor brought together the arts and science, usually an incongruent alliance. Not so, in this case. The four projects sponsored by SDVAN involved 40 artists, scientists and educators, all bent on finding ways to showcase art and science together. Each team’s mission was to cultivate an understanding of issues affecting the ecosystem and to prompt innovative, positive change or at least get people to think about the issue. A tall order I’d say.

Creative minds that they are, Debbie and Marjorie Jellies in Santa Cruztook the idea to a whole new level. They wanted to address the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans and bays. I suppose you just have to be an artist to come up with what was eventually dubbed “Jellies Forever”, a brilliant exhibit in the Museum of Monterey using donated plastic grocery bags, painters’ tarps and salvaged plastic wrap. Their exhibit featured life-like jelly fish hanging from the ceiling. Life-like until you took a closer look and realized you were looking at plastic. Though they intended to install six to eight jellies, they ended up spending two days installing 33 and along the way Debbie and Marjorie were dubbed the “Jelly Girls”, a name that stuck.

Why creaJelly hanging in the museumte plastic jelly fish? If you’ve spent any time at the beaches or on the water you know how sickening it is to see the water teeming with garbage. Many people don’t realize that much of this muck lays underwater plaguing our oceans and strangling sea life; we see a minuscule portion that floats on top. It’s ugly, it’s an infestation. The exhibit ran from March 2014 until early August of that year. The “jellies” as they have come to be known, can still be seen on display at the Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay Exploration Center as well as in Fusionglass Co, a La Mesa gallery, owned by Debbie Solan and artist Paul Fernandes.

But lest you think Fusionglass is a typical gallery, think again. Started in 2007 the little gallery holds special events year round and sells Marjorie’s beautiful painted silks and Debbie and Paul’s glass work, each piece a true work of art. And classes, lots and lots of classes, such as a series called Ladies Night Out where students learn to make their own stunning glass jewelry. (Note to self: gotta sign up for one of those classes.) Fusionglass was a bonafide lifesaver for Marjorie.

“Fusionglass saved my life,” Marjorie says. “This place kept me going.”

Which brings us back to the question of how a person moves on after going through an unthinkable tragedy? Debbie says that when a person goes through a something horrific that it’s essential to concentrate on Post Traumatic Growth, PTG, not the stress of PTSD. “You find a new way of living after you’ve experienced a tragedy,” she says, alluding to what she and Marjorie endured. “You choose how to deal with it, how you get through it.”

It’s still hard for them, how could it Jellies on the Ceilingnot be? No doubt their bond and strong friendship has given them the resiliency to muscle through the emotional and psychological difficulties together, to the next chapter of their lives. Marjorie states that going from one creative endeavor to the next motivates her to get through her days, weeks and months, allowing her to function and to live. She recently received a certificate from the Teaching Artists Institute; now she teaches art to small children, and when she can, connects her lessons to the work of the ocean and the Jelly Girls because the Jelly Girls has become about more than an exhibit.

These days the two dynamic women say that the term has evolved into defining someone who gives back to the community, who creates beauty from materials on hand and who inspires others to care. In other words, thinks outside of herself, thinks of the good. Considering what these two women went through, it’s remarkable that they were able to pick themselves up and find a way out of the sorrow and melancholy that accompanies grief. They did it through their art, through their friendship and through finding a path back to the light when life threw them one of the worst curve balls imaginable.

For more information on them, contact Marjorie, Debbie and the Jelly Girls by clicking on their names to link you directly.


Carol and Tiki Tackle a Daunting Mission

What compels a woman to ride her horse 800 miles along the sometimes perilous, steep Arizona Trail, full of risky passes, such as the Crest Trail that traverses Miller Peak at over 9,000 feet? Never mind that she is the first person to attempt to ride the entire trail by horse. No one has been able to do it, but that doesn’t seem to faze Carol Fontana, an accomplished endurance rider. And her 11 year-old, Arabian horse, Tiki Barber? He may just be along for the ride or it may be fun for him. After all, the two of them won the 25 mile horse division of the Man Against Horse Race in Prescott, Arizona in 2014 i thought about this. Just in case you think that 800 miles may be more endurance than any horse should bear, Tiki is up for the ride. This horse can rock it. Last year he won Best Conditioned Horse in the 50 mile McDowell endurance race near Phoenix. In the world of horse endurance races, this is a big deal. Yep, he’s up for it.

So while it sounds like both horse and rider are as well prepared as anyone to undergo such a ride, why do it? It’s personal. Carol’s mother was a single mom who raised three daughters. Carol knows only too well the hardships of a single mother.

“I know firsthand the challenges,” Carol says. “I have been very fortunate and I want to give back.”

She decided that she would use her and Tiki’s skills to raise money for Saddle Up!, the organization sponsoring the ride. The money raised will go to the Prescott Area Shelter Services (PASS ), an organization that receives no government funding; it is the only emergency and transitional housing shelter for women and families in Arizona’s Yavapai County. Quite remarkably, 100% of donations go directly to support their services. Not many non-profits can make that claim; kudos to them.

On April 2nd Carol and Tiki began their historic ride, with a little help from the U.S. Forest Service. You see, the trail starts at the border with Mexico, a place off limits to horseback riders. Fortunately the Forest Service saw the wisdom of granting a special exemption allowing Carol and Tiki to ride the first two mile portion of the trail, beginning at the border. Of course that took some choreography, paperwork and the purchase of a $100 special use permit from the U.S. Department of Interior to travel along the rocky switchbacks from Montezuma’s pass to the Mexico border.

The second day the duo faced late season snow, ice and fallen trees across the trail which required Carol to physically clear the trees and branches; sometimes she had to stand on lower limbs to raise others, allowing Tiki to climb through.

Carol and her team expect the ride to take more or less three months. Yes, she has a team. How could she not? Carol is supported by her husband and a few fellow veterans who drive from base camp to base camp in a specially equipped RV that’s self-sufficient and capable of navigating jagged forest roads to the base camps. You didn’t really think she was going to do this out in the wilds of Arizona entirely on her own, did you? Naw, didn’t think so. They also anticipate that on occasion Carol may be accompanied by experienced endurance riders.

If you’re not familiar with the 800-mile Arizona Trail, it stretches from the Mexican border near Sonoita to the Utah border near Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.  Romantic as it sounds, it’s nothing to sneeze at. It crosses over Mt. Lemmon near Tucson, over the precipitous Mogollon Rim, in and out of the Grand Canyon and through some very rough, secluded country. It’s divided into 43 passages, each with a designated base camp (thank goodness).  While some of the base camps feature camping facilities, others are a wide spot on a forest road. Each day, Carol and Tiki leave their base camp and head back out on the trail. The team members break camp and drive to the next base camp and set up. For the most unmanageable passages, where vehicles cannot reach, Carol and Tiki will camp out for the night.

As you can imagine, this operation takes an incredible amount of coordination. Planning and groundwork has been underway for over a year, including every aspect of Tiki’s care. Lest you think Tiki’s welfare is at risk, the ride plans were reviewed by the Yavapai Humane Society, which has endorsed the ride. In addition to special high-performance diets and supplements for all the animals, Tiki’s own veterinarians from the Prescott Animal Hospital are overseeing his care. But just in case it’s needed Carol has contact information for local veterinarians along the route. And to make sure that his hoofs stay in tip-top shape, Carol’s farrier will meet the team at base camps along the way to ensure that Tiki’s shoeing remains intact. So many details went into the preparations. For example, when and where needed along the trail, stewards will supply water to Carol and Tiki, and will report on current trail conditions. Nice.

In addition to raising funds for northern Arizona’s homeless, Carol is taking notes for the trail managers on how they can make areas such as the Huachuca Mountains Pass more equine-friendly. As trailblazers they hope that their efforts will make it easier for future trail riders.

By the time they reach Utah they hope to raise $25,000 to $50,000 for PASS. As of the middle of April they had raised $15,000. If you’re interested in helping spread a little goodness to the homeless of northern Arizona, please visit their website here.  Then, if you like to ride or never have and would like to give it a shot, find a local stable and go on a group trail ride. As you and your horse meander through the countryside for a mile or two taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the back country just imagine what it would be like to ride like that for 800 very long, very challenging miles. That’s when you’ll realize what an incredible feat this is for Carol and Tiki to undertake. Not everyone has it in themselves to embark on such an effort. Obviously Carol is an extraordinary woman and Tiki, quite an extraordinary horse.

How Romeo Gave Lee Her Spirit Back

A happy, talkative boy
A happy, talkative boy

Lee Fulbright suffered a double whammy in 2012. She lost both her husband and her sister in one year. For a long, dark time it took everything she had to get up each day and simply live. It was just her and Baby Rae, her 13 year old cattle dog.

The following year, as she slowly adjusted to a new life she read an article in a small newspaper about a local San Diego physical therapist, Trish Penick, who specialized in physical therapy for dogs. Trish used water therapy to help dogs recover from surgery and stroke paralysis. The swimming pool therapy also provided pain relief to dogs suffering from arthritis whose joints throbbed when they walked on cement or trails. She read how once in the pool those pups were soothed by warm water as they played, weightless in the water; all while getting much-needed exercise. Reading further Lee learned that Trish was losing access to a donated private pool and was looking for another centrally located San Diego pool as soon as possible. Lee vividly remembers the thoughts that raced through her head.

“I was reading this and thinking, I love dogs and I have a pool. I’m in the city, on Point Loma. And it’s just me and Baby Rae now–those babies can yip and play and get worked on all they want– I’ve no problem with dog “singing.” I have a pool with two shallow areas for hands-on procedures, with a decent-sized length in-between for laps.”

She quickly realized that her pool could work. She contacted Trish and invited her to take a look. It turned out that Trish lived just blocks away. Trish and her yellow lab, Tori, came right over. As Lee likes to say, the rest is history. Two plus years later worth of history. Lee says that some weeks she has counted as many as forty dogs in the pool. Dogs whose hind ends have given out, who’ve had strokes, who’ve recently had knee or hip surgeries, or any kind of surgery really, who’re recovering from car accident injuries, who are overweight or whose human parents can’t exercise them for one reason or another, or are debilitated rescue dogs and need to be built back up so they can be adopted out. Good story, right? Oh, but it gets better. Here’s where the silver lining of this story emerges.

The Southern California German Shepherd Rescue has been one of Trish’s charities; she has taken on some of their most hopeless-seeming cases pro bono, Romeo was one of them. Lee recalls the day she met with him with precision clarity.

“He was approximately 10-11years old, a HUGE German shepherd with an un-German shepherd, bear-like head, hair sticking straight out all around, like a halo,” Lee says. “He was funny-looking, oh, but such intelligence in those brown eyes. A very tall dog, but completely emaciated, with a thin, dry coat, and sores all over any visible skin.”

Romeo couldn’t walk on his own; his back legs were paralyzed. He was found in some bushes and taken to Southern California German Shepherd Rescue, who cleaned him up, and got a medical done on him. His hips were deemed “gone”; he needed surgery, but at 30 pounds underweight, he was too debilitated to undergo, much less survive surgery. The veterinarian treated his sores, recommended a special protein diet to put weight on his emaciated frame and physical therapy to rebuild and strengthen muscle. Sounds pretty grim, huh? Seeing him was worse.

“I about died when I first laid eyes on him. He was so, so thin and dependent. His angel of a foster mom managed him with the aid of special rear-end harness that allowed him to move his front legs while she held up his hind end. The second thing, after his shocking condition, that set Romeo apart was his personality. Sweetest, gentlest dog ever. And the most vocal. But he didn’t bark, he “talked.” Almost constantly. He talked even while swimming (Romeo learned to swim in about ten minutes). He loved the warm water. He talked and talked and talked. Eventually, he did wheelies. He fetched toys. He did laps. He stretched those front limbs and paddled like crazy, and he was beautiful–and before we knew it– this was about three sessions out– his back limbs fluttered. And he talked some more. Long story short, because Romeo’s rehab was not an immediate thing– it took a few months– Romeo was ready for his first surgery (a very expensive surgery paid for by German Shepherd Rescue).”

Lee says that the surgery was successful, relieving Romeo of pain on dry land, giving him some mobility on the ground, under his own steam. Who could not love a dog like that? His foster mom officially adopted him, and for more than a year he lived the good life, sheltered and pampered, swimming in Lee’s pool for exercise, and, she says, always talking. He was lucky. Instead of dying behind some bush on the side of the road, Romeo died of natural causes in his sleep, loved and pain-free. Lee will never forget him.

“I still get teary-eyed thinking of him. All he’d been through, and yet he never lost his amazingly beautiful spirit. In many ways, because of the journey I’d been on, of recovery from care-giving and loss, it was Romeo who first made my heart soar again. Because he was majestic. And he was magic. And he’d been down, but was starting over, getting a new life, and it seemed he understood he’d been given another chance. I’d watch him and think anything was possible, because the impossible–his healing– was happening right in front of us.”

The very same can be said for Lee Fulbright. From a dark place full of grief, through the selfless, simple act of providing her pool for canine physical therapy, she found healing and a renewed spirit.

To learn more about Trish’s work at Cutting Edge K-9 Rehab, please visit her website