"The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master."
—Ben Hur Lampman
Throughout my life, I have always loved animals—mostly because my parents were unreceptive to the idea of pets in the home, save for the occasional fish. It had been a dream of mine to be a dog owner as an adult; however, circumstances kept dog ownership out of reach because of my professional responsibilities and apartment restrictions. Last Christmas my wife and I were finally in a position where we could be responsible dog owners and I adopted Luna, a 2-year-old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
The WPG—affectionately dubbed "Griff"—is a hearty breed with a proud tradition of hunting prowess, intelligence and agility. Griffs have an even stronger reputation as the perfect family dog because of their even temperament. Luna, the abbreviated form of her kennel name, Champion Firesides Lunatic, was every bit the firebrand her name implied. She was full of energy, yet possessed a gentle demeanor that allowed her to play alongside infants as young as 2 months old.
In early 2012, I was assigned as a student to work with Colette Edwards at Gateway University Research Park, which offered telepractice services to children and adults. The children seemed to lack engagement and I thought the novelty of an animal might make speech-language intervention something fun and special that could be viewed as a reward. I casually suggested using Luna in treatment to my clinical supervisors. After a thorough review, they determined she was a wonderful candidate, and Luna became an integral part of multiple telepractice sessions with elementary school students, a multiple-session tutoring experience, and a language evaluation with a young child. She had the ability to illuminate a session with children who had demonstrated minimal verbal output and was set to begin earning the designation of Canine Good Citizen over the summer.
Tragically, Luna was struck by a vehicle in April 2012. Although she survived the initial impact, she sustained non-survivable injuries and we decided to have her put to sleep. Thanks to the kind hearts of good Samaritans, we were able to be with Luna when she closed her eyes. My wife and I took the loss of Luna particularly hard, as she had become a part of the family. In addition to my personal loss, I had seen wonderful potential for her use as a therapy dog and felt her loss was a squandering of unrealized potential.
As I healed, I realized that the best course of action was to preserve Luna's memory by continuing to advocate for animal-assisted therapy. I have since tailored my graduate research project to examine the perceptions of SLPs concerning animal-assisted therapy and have made arrangements to acquire another Griff in September 2013. This puppy will be sired by Luna's brother Ryder, ensuring that Luna's pedigree of therapeutic use will continue for many years.