Luna the Therapy Dog

posted March 26th, 2019 by
  • Share

THE LOVE AND LIFE OF LUNA THE THERAPY DOG

By Heide Brandes

 

Nacole Schopfer’s mother was unable to speak or walk. When Nacole visited her mother in hospice care, the only way they could communicate was through hand signals. It was a depressing and hard time for them both.

 

But when Nacole started bringing her new snow-white Husky pup named Luna to the nursing home on visits, she noticed a change in her mom’s attitude.

 

“I just saw the huge impact that Luna had on my mom and how much happier my mom became. Luna was really good at it. She would always walk up to the bed and say hi to mom,” said Nacole. “My mom was unable to walk or speak, but when Luna would come and visit, it would just make her day. She’d be smiling and happy, and that was a huge thing. And the other residents, they loved Luna too.”

 

Although Nacole already had two other dogs, she had an idea that Luna could be more than just a pet and a companion. She had an impact on people. She had a calming influence on people. She could help people.

 

“Once I realized that she was a really good fit for therapy work, I started looking more into it,” Nacole said.

 

Thanks to training and an eager spirit, Luna is now known as “Luna The Therapy Dog.” Every month, she and Nacole visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and more to help others deal with stress and other life challenges.

 

For the white dog with the fluffy tail and bright pink booties on, helping others seems to come naturally.

 

THE LIFE OF LUNA

Nacole found Luna as a puppy through a Craigslist ad in December 2014. She had two other dogs already, but she had always wanted a Husky. Knowing that Huskies are a high-energy and intelligent breed, she also knew Luna would need training.

 

“Luna went through training with Kira Schultz Area Pet Trainer. We took six- to eight-week classes at PetSmart—beginner, intermediate, advanced and therapy. And before her therapy class started, we took our Canine Good Citizen test and passed that,” Nacole said. “Kira is able to do the testing for therapy and Canine Good Citizen, but not every PetSmart trainer is. After all of those classes and training, we tested with Alliance of Therapy Dogs and became certified in June.”

 

Training Luna early and daily was the secret to her becoming a natural for therapy work. Exposing the young hound to the nursing home environment to visit Nacole’s mother also helped.

 

“Luna was able to visit my mom without being certified because my mom was a resident, and Luna was so well behaved,” she said. “I saw the huge positive impact it had not just on my mom but on other residents as well, so we decided to become a certified therapy team.”

 

After her PetSmart training, Luna didn’t have to go through all of the training to pass the test with ATD, but Nacole wanted her to be the best therapy dog possible, and with that comes lots of training.

 

“But I thoroughly enjoy it; it’s such a bonding experience,” Nacole said.

 

A DOG’S LIFE

Once Luna received her therapy dog certification, the requests for her came quickly. Within that same month, Luna and Nacole made their first site visit to the First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City.

 

“I’m not sure if it was a preschool or daycare type of facility, but this school found Luna’s page on Facebook and messaged us to come out during the summer for an animal camp,” Nacole said. “We got to go and visit the kids, and we loved it. We had snow cones and the little kids got to read to her. Luna loved it. She loved all the kids hugging on her and all the attention that she got from the kids and the teachers.”

 

Seeing the success of Luna’s first visit, Nacole looked into other places to bring her. She emailed organizations throughout the metro, offering the pair’s services.

 

“We started visiting [the Academy of Contemporary Music] at UCO once a month to visit all the students and teachers there,” Nacole said. “They loved it, and seeing Luna was definitely stress relief for them. They call it their ‘Stress Paws’ event.”

 

Soon, Luna was in high demand. The team visited the University of Oklahoma Medical Center patients and staff, specifically patients who requested therapy dogs. Next, the two partnered with Good Shepherd Hospice and The Fountains at Canterbury (assisted living) to make visits as well.

 

While Luna and Nacole took the month of January off in remembrance of Nacole’s mother’s passing, the months fill up quickly for Luna.

 

“I can see how she gives stress relief. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces, and they love interacting with her,” said Nacole. “We also do education. We did an education seminar at Dogtopia where I worked on the differences between service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals because not many people know the differences among the three. We have another one planned for sometime in the spring.”

 

Nacole said Luna’s personality is what makes her so good with other people.

 

“She’s very curious, and she’s a character. She’s my most vocal dog, and she loves doing anything and everything,” said Nacole. “She’s also very courteous. She likes to know what’s going on all the time.”

 

Nacole also knows the responsibility and impact therapy dogs can have. It’s a responsibility she takes seriously.

 

“I know personally what it feels like to be a family member of a hospice patient. I was really, really close with my mom. So I understand how much having a therapy dog visit can brighten your day because you don’t always have people to come and visit,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be able to volunteer at hospice with a different dog or on my own. Luna is definitely my support, and I just want to spread her love and her joy to other people.”

 

The need for more therapy dogs in the area is growing. Many times, Luna and Nacole may be the only visitors residents and patients have every month.

 

“If you are interested, contact us. I can answer any questions,” Nacole said. “You should start training early because the dogs have to be OK with wheelchairs and noises and food and just a variety of situations.”

 

Luna now has her own following on Facebook and Instagram as well. You, too, can follow on Facebook @LunaTheTherapyHusky and on Instagram @luna.thetherapydog.

 

And when people see Luna, they also notice her hot pink and black booties.

 

“Everyone asks about the boots. Not only does it help to keep her feet sanitary and protect people from accidental scratches, it’s also how she knows she is working,” Nacole said. “It’s just so rewarding for both of us to help other people.”

No Responses to “Luna the Therapy Dog”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.