Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Steve Wolf, Piper and Teasy!

Steve Wolf
In the library system where I (until recently) worked, we have a program called "Reader's Choice." A committee of librarians read a ton of books and then pull out the best thirty or so for our patrons to read and vote on. Most of the books are fiction, but they usually include at least a couple of non-fiction books, often an animal book. For four months, patrons read and then vote on these books.

That's how I came across Steve Wolf's inspiring book, Comet's Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life. Comet and Steve's story will be one of the Reader's Choice books for patrons to read from June through October. And I have no doubt it will have the same impact on lots of readers that it had on me: I felt inspired and humbled and richer on so many different levels after I finished the book.

Steve Wolf was a Type-A attorney and athlete until a degenerative spine disease completely and utterly changed his life--almost over night--when in his forties. He had to retire from his job, go from actively
The amazing Comet!
competing in athletics to walking with canes, and spend winter apart from his family in Nebraska in the warmer climes of Arizona. It was there that he met Comet, an abandoned former racing greyhound. As Steve's
Comet, Service Dog
conditions worsens, he comes to rely increasingly on his profound bond with Comet to keep him alive. Literally. Although everyone said it couldn't be done, Comet was successfully trained to be Steve's service dog. She could open doors for him, bring him his cell phone, pull down his bed covers, help him get up when he fell, and hold him up to keep him from falling, and pulled his wheelchair. It is truly, truly an amazing story. As Steve writes, "She seemed to exude a dignified wisdom that whispered,  I understand. When she laid her head on my chest during a particularly bad day, it wasn't out of distress. When she watched over me during unbearably long periods of time between bathroom breaks, it wasn't because she felt sorry for me. Comet really did know what I was going through. Her actions ...were empathy, compassion, responsiveness, and identification...we shared a mutual respect that went far deeper than the word rescue could convey."

Sadly, Comet passed away two years ago, although she lived to the ripe old age of fourteen! Steve has since adopted another "retired" racer (what these dogs go through is horrific), Piper, and trained her to be his service dog as well. He reports she's almost as great at her job as Comet. He also is what we call in the rescue business a "failed foster." He fostered a gorgeous white greyhound named Teasy after her owner passed away. Needless to say, he's made her a permanent part of his family. Steve has also become a tireless advocate for the plight of racing greyhounds.

Let's meet Steve and his amazing Piper on today's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and your dogs find each other?  Comet had become a bit of a celebrity in Omaha by the Nebraska Humane Society as Service Dog of the Year in 2010. After Comet passed in 2011
Greyhound love
Joanne, who runs the greyhound adoption for the NHS, immediately started looking for another greyhound for me (and without telling me!). Late July 2012 I received a phone text--"I found a dog for you!"--along with a picture of a red-brindle female. I called Joanne and told her, "I'm not ready yet." Her reply? "Get your butt over here. I've had a thousand greyhounds come through here and this dog is in the top two." When I visited and discovered that Piper was in the shelter because she had figured out how to open all her compatriots' cages at the racing kennel where she'd been, releasing them all in the process. The adoption was a no-brainer.

Joanne also sent Teasy our way in February. This cuddly white female was 7 years old and was at the shelter because her owner had passed away. She was super stressed and Joanne thought Piper might be a comfort until Teasy could find a new home. Needless to say, my fostering role changed to loving, permanent custodian within two hours after Teasy arrived.

Teasy & Piper and beds
2. What makes Piper and Teasy's tails wag?  Piper, like Comet before her, loves to ride in the back of the SUV. The words, "Do you want to go for a ride?" are all it takes to get her tail going. Teasy? All she needs is to see me put on any form of foot attire--slippers, sandals, shoes--then she's wagging for a trip outside.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I still have my 1955 edition of the novel, Beautiful Joe, by Margaret Mashall Saunders, my very first "dog book." This beautifully written story is not only based upon the life of a real dog, it was written in the early 1890s for submission to, and winner of, a writing contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society.

4. If Piper and Teasy could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  They would
Piper and Comet
change me from Boring Writer to Emperor of Dog Bed Manufacturing.

5. In five words, tell us what your dogs mean to you:  They ALWAYS make me smile!

Many thanks to Steve, Piper, and Teasy for visiting with us on Fido and Friend in Five! And extra thanks to Steve for sharing his and Comet's extraordinary story. You really must read it! And to find out more about what Steve and "the hounds" are up to (and see some great photos), follow them on their FaceBook page and, of course, Steve's website.