EXTRA: Puppy therapy

It seemed Josh had become a very sad and withdrawn big brother.

May 1st, 2001

While we were having our morning dental office meeting to discuss the day's cancellations, the phone rang. A patient called to see if there were any last-minute openings so he could have his teeth cleaned.

Our caller, a kindly minister, came in to see me at 11 a.m. He had just finished visiting a family that belonged to his church. The minister sadly told me of their three-year-old daughter, Chelsea, who had leukemia and explained how tough her illness was on the whole family. It was especially hard on Josh, Chelsea's seven-year-old brother. It seemed Josh had become a very sad and withdrawn big brother.

As I thought about the plight of this family, I recalled a conversation with my teenage daughter, Sandy, that very morning. Sandy was worried about finding good homes for all of our new puppies.

I told Sandy about the minister's story later that evening. When she looked up at me, we both knew that Josh had to have one of our puppies.

I then called the minister and asked if he thought the family would accept a beautiful AKC Golden Retriever puppy as a gift. He seemed excited about the idea and said he'd talk to them about it. A few days later, the minister returned to the dental office to see me. He had spoken with Josh and Chelsea's parents and learned that neither one of them had ever owned a pet. Since they were concerned about their daughter's compromised immune system, they decided to consult with Chelsea's physician before considering our offer. The doctor told them that a puppy would be ideal for the entire family and would pose no threat to Chelsea's immune system.

Over the next couple of years, Sandy and I received many touching letters from Josh's mom. She always wrote about Josh's enthusiasm for living. Every day, he'd run home from school and fly like a bolt of lightning through the house into the backyard where his precious dog and best companion eagerly awaited his return. Josh even built a doghouse with spare lumber he gathered from the neighborhood.

The most touching of all the letters had enclosed with it a family portrait - dog and all. Chelsea had grown so much.

She was a beautiful little girl with long, dark, flowing curls and the biggest smile. The letter said that her leukemia had gone into remission.

I showed the letter to Sandy and asked, "Isn't it wonderful?"

My daughter smiled and said, "Yes, it sure is. But Mom, do you have anymore patients who know someone who needs a puppy? We're expecting another litter."

"Puppy Therapy" was written by Deborah Onweller, RDH. "Extras" are great Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul stories edited by co-author and keynote speaker, Don Dible, for which there simply wasn't enough room in the book. Not sold in stores, Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul is available by phone toll-free at (800) 247-6553 or by mail from DMD House, 1250 Oakmead Parkway, Suite 210, Sunnyvale, CA 94085 for $12.95 plus $4 shipping. Quantity discounts are available.You may contact Don Dible at dondible@dmdhouse.net.

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