Terry + Priya

Once a Shelter Dog, Priya Brings Joy during Hospital Visits

Terry + Priya

Priya’s story begins with the loss of another dog, Cooper.

Cooper was our constant companion, my hiking dog and a therapy dog who worked with disabled children. When she passed at 12 years of age, we thought our hearts would break, and no other dog could ever replace what we had with her.

"For several weeks, we wondered if we had made the right decision."

But then Priya arrived at the Humane Society of the White Mountain. She was young, pregnant, terrified, almost starved and obviously abused. As a volunteer, I transported her and her puppies to a foster home. As we loaded her pups in my car, one of the kennel workers brought her out to me. I saw how scared she was, so I got down on the ground. She curled into my lap and just looked at me with the most gorgeous deep brown eyes. I melted.

After months of her being in foster care, my husband and I decided to adopt her. For several weeks, we wondered if we had made the right decision. She was terrified of both of us as well as loud noises and quick movements. We just kept working with her and eventually, she learned to trust, play, bark and wag that short stubby tail.

We took her to school where she passed the Therapy Dogs International test. That is when I saw her gift of love return a thousand-fold. We visit our local hospital every Tuesday, visiting patients, especially in oncology where folks are battling for their lives. It’s there we met a lung cancer patient who had a very strong connection with Priya, and I think the feeling was mutual. Afterward, we didn’t see him for a few months and we eventually found out he was terminal and in hospice care.

I received a note and learned that he kept asking for Priya. We immediately went to see him. I didn’t recognize him, but Priya did. She walked to his bedside and quietly put her front paws on the edge of the bed. His eyes opened, and he smiled patting the bed. She jumped up on the bed, avoiding all the tube, and quietly laid by his side for some time until his hand just slid off her.

I knew something had happened between them. I could feel it. I didn’t realize until a couple of days later that they were saying goodbye to each other.

Each day is not as dramatic as that day, but every day my formerly abused, neglected and terrified little girl brings joy, comfort and love to someone who needs it. Perhaps it’s just a nudge, or a wag or a cuddle, but she has a way of knowing what each patient needs. I’ve learned so much from her, but the most important lesson is to never close your heart to a dog’s love.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Terry Bankert won Humane Society of the White Mountain in Lakeside, Arizona a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.