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Teddy and Bryan
by Katie Costello
Everyone has amazing days that they will never forget, usually inspired by something wonderful being done for them, or something wonderful they are doing. One such day in my life was January 14, 2001, and the few months that would follow.
I awoke one cold, snowy morning and decided to check my email. I had started a Therapy Dog group in the Youngstown, Ohio area called K-9’s for compassion, and belonged to a list on the computer for therapy dogs. This is a great list to get advice from. The list commonly spreads tips and tricks of visiting with your animal. Interestingly, on January 14, 2001, there was a misguided message. It was from a Mother in New Jersey. Her son was terminally ill. She was looking for a way to find him a golden retriever that she could use as the little boy’s therapy dog. The boy, Bryan, 8 years old had always wanted a golden retriever that he would name Teddy.
At first it struck me that this was a bizarre message to even make it to the list. This list is about people that already have dogs, and most are already tested through one of the national registries. Then, I started to think, “We can do this!”
My first concern was that I was going to place a dog into a good home. I wanted a home that the dog would have the best possible life. I wanted to be certain this home would be for the life of the dog. I wanted to find out about them. I contacted the Mother via the computer, and asked for her address. I sent out a 4-page questionnaire quizzing her about every aspect of their lives. Within a few days I received the questionnaire back, along with a handwritten letter. The handwritten letter explained how Bryan has cystic fibrosis, seizure disorder, and ADHD. Bryan had 2 wishes to make-a-wish-foundation. One was for a Golden Retriever; the other was t go to Disney World and swim with the Dolphins. Make-A-Wish foundation sent Bryan to Disney World, and his Mother, Karen, was trying to figure out a way to grant his second wish.
I then went through the references she sent to me. I called them. One of my concerns was that Bryan possibly shouldn’t even have a dog. I called his physician, who said that a dog might be the best thing for Bryan. My initial thoughts were to go to a Golden Retriever Rescue Group, get a dog, work with him on some basic obedience training, and then drive him to New Jersey. One of the members of my therapy dog group is a golden retriever breeder, as well as working with G.R.I.N., (Golden Retrievers In Need), so I went to her with my information. Much to my surprise, Vonnie Peterson said that she would donate one of her puppies to this little boy. The two of us were elated by the prospects of this story really coming true!
We waited for her next litter of puppies to be born. She hand picked a male from the group, which is specifically what Bryan had wanted. He was a big sturdy boy. Bryan had already named him Teddy. We waited until Teddy was 10 weeks old. I had decided that I wanted him neutered before he ever left our area. Dr. Sam Costello, D.V.M., of Town and Country Veterinary Hospital agreed to do the surgery for me. We neutered him, and I took him home to recover for a few days.
We had decided on May 26, 2001 to drive Teddy to Bryan. For company, I had my friend Katy Ingledue, my brother Jason Matola, and Jason’s friend Erin Coxson ride with me. We had all looked forward to this day. We would take Teddy to Bryan, and before driving home we would go into New York City, which was only about 45 minutes from Bryan’s house.
Aaron and Sheri Weisberg, owners of Niles Pet Supplies Plus, had donated a lot of items to take out with Teddy. They donated a bed, a nice collar and leash, a big bag of dog food, a few toys, and some bones. They also gave him a large feeding and watering stand, and the bowls to go with it! So, we loaded up the car with all of Teddy’s things.
The night before we left, the media caught wind of the story, and we were bombarded by every news station and newspaper in our area! It was wonderful to have them taking pictures of Teddy, and wishing us well. People were driving up to my house to give us more toys, and more dog food to take with us. It was truly a community coming together for this little boy, and this terrific story! The story was bigger than I could have ever imagined.
We woke up at 3:00 in the morning to leave for our journey. Teddy rode very well in the car. He was going to have a big role when he arrived in New Jersey. We all talked for the entire eight-hour drive about how neat it would be to see this story finally unfold, and see the look on Bryan’s face. We had made a big banner to put across the back of the car that said “Teddy is making his way to his forever home with Bryan in N.J.”. We arrived in New Jersey about 12:00 PM.
When we pulled up to the house, there were several children in the street, and a Golden Retriever flag hanging from the flagpole. I was certain this was the right house! We stepped out of the car, and I said, “Which one of you is Bryan?” one boy stepped up and stated, “I am Bryan”. So I pulled Teddy out of the car. Screams of joy came from Bryan as he ran to his new puppy, grabbing him and hugging him tightly to his chest. Karen walked out of the house, and tears filled everyone’s eyes. Bryan walked with Teddy over to the grass, and began rolling on the group playing with him. We were all snapping pictures, when suddenly, the New Jersey Media had arrived. This was one famous dog!
Karen had made a lot of food for everyone. We walked into the house, and there was Teddy’s large crate with MORE toys and MORE food for him. This was on much-loved dog. We talked to the media, and to Bryan and Karen. It was an overwhelming day, both emotionally and physically, but one I wouldn’t have changed for the world.
We stayed for several hours visiting, and letting them get to know Teddy. When it was time to go, Karen and Bryan both said tearful good-byes. Sometimes, strangers aren’t strangers at all. Sometimes it is like they have known each other for a lifetime. As we were leaving Bryan and Karen where running down the street with Teddy waving goodbye. Somehow, I know that this wouldn’t be the end of the Teddy story!
Karen and I keep in contact almost weekly. Teddy is much bigger than when we took him out to New Jersey. The reports I get on Teddy are that he is the best dog in the world. When Bryan isn’t feeling good, Teddy lie’s next to him until he feels better. When Bryan is in the hospital, Teddy cheers Karen up. They both report loving this dog so much. He has made their home complete. A Mom, a boy, and his dog, that has all found a deeper love that extends beyond human understanding.
And so, off into the evening light of a New Jersey May day, the four of us drove off into New York City with smiles on our faces, a story that has proven to follow us everywhere, and imprints of a great dog, and a great family on our hearts.
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