The first inductee in the therapy category is Gus, a darling, loving, calm four year old Yorkshire Terrier owned by Karen Nolan of Hinesburg, VT. Dr. Gary Solow was the nominating VVMA member veterinarian.
Being a Yorkshire Terrier, you can imagine just how small Gus was when he came home to Karen’s house that first day as a puppy. As Karen says, “He was so small, I could just pop him in my purse and take him wherever I went!” It soon became apparent that Gus enjoyed the ride and loved meeting people. Gus was enrolled in basic obedience classes, learned quickly and soon became involved in Therapy Dogs of Vermont where he visits children of all ages at the Fletcher Allen Hospital’s Pediatric Ward.
It took Gus a very short time to learn specific behaviors that he employs while he works. When visiting a very sick child, Gus will become very cautious; lying quietly along side the patient, snuggling his nose under the young hand, sensing that the child is too sick to play. If a child is feeling better, Gus switches to “entertainment mode”. He enthusiastically plays, goes through his inventory of tricks and even dances! Gus loves his job and even when off duty never really takes off his therapy dog uniform. Seeing someone in a wheelchair, Gus will whimper, wiggle and whine until Karen approaches the chair and asks its occupant if she would like to visit with Gus. Almost always the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Then, with a look of greatness and satisfaction on his face, up Gus goes. His wish has been granted! Smiles all around!
In December of 2005, Karen was diagnosed with a rare condition called Cushing’s Disease. A brain tumor was causing a hormonal imbalance in Karen’s system, leading to weakness, hair loss, and weight gain. Although initially, no one understood what was causing the problem, Gus knew something was seriously wrong. He became Karen’s constant companion and support system, including accompanying her on needed trips to hospitals and emergency rooms. It has been a long road for Karen: brain surgery in Oregon, prolonged hospitalizations, post surgical complications and seizures, extensive home recovery time. With Gus always near by, Karen has endured and is now improving. Gus still only leaves her side for short periods of time to catch a short nap in his favorite bed down the hall, named Irene.
On a whim, Karen entered Gus in a web-based dog show called Dog Show USA. The small dog handily won the Toy Division, beating out more then 14,000 other canines for the title.
Gus is always happy, truly happy and makes everyone who sees him happy too. We know that Gus was instrumental in Karen’s recovery and continues to be important to the recovery of many children at Fletcher Allen Hospital. He has brightened many a day and has brightened us today with his tale.
The VVMA is pleased to honor Gus by inducting him into the Vermont Animal Hall of Fame in the Therapy Category.