Miracle dog: Canine's story resonates with many
JANESVILLE—One look at Miracle explains her power to comfort people.
Her pleasant face seems caught in a smile. Her demeanor suggests fast friendship. Her golden hair is soft and inviting to stroke.
But the 3-year-old golden retriever has more than good looks and charm.
She has an inspiring story, which owners Bill and Kathy Schendt believe will bring hope into the lives of others.
Miracle was never expected to survive after birth.
Born to a private breeder in Edgerton, the dog inhaled birth fluids and developed a massive lung infection.
“She was in puppy ICU for three weeks,” Kathy said. “The vet gave her one last antibiotic shot.”
To everyone's surprise, Miracle survived. But her troubles were not over.
When she walked strangely, her vet discovered from an X-ray that she did not have a proper hip joint.
With her disability, Miracle would never be a show dog like her champion father and grandfather.
Miracle's original owner contacted the Schendts of Janesville and asked if they would be willing to take the 3-month-old puppy.
Longtime dog lovers, they welcomed the playful youngster.
But Kathy and Bill wanted Miracle to succeed.
They took her on short walks and to pool therapy at Dunkin' Dawgs in Janesville, where dogs swim for therapy, exercise and fun.
Today, 55-pound Miracle is a testimony to the power of exercise and perseverance.
“Muscle has taken over her left side,” Kathy said. “She runs. She jumps. She's a miracle.”
Nancy Long of Dunkin' Dawgs has worked with Miracle since she was a puppy.
“We needed to build her hip muscles,” Long said. “She did lots of swimming. We also did massage and range of motion exercises in the pool.”
Today the dog's disability is barely noticeable.
“You would never know she had a problem,” Long said.
In addition to weekly swim sessions, the Schendts eventually took Miracle to a dog obedience school. Then Miracle attended advanced training known as the Canine Good Citizen.
At the end of June, Miracle took another leap in her education and graduated from therapy-dog training offered by Scott and Tina Lindner of Das Hund Haus, Evansville.
Not all dogs meet the challenge.
“I would say that one out of 100 can be a therapy dog,” Scott said.
As part of her training, Miracle visited a detention center, a school and a nursing home to see how she responded.
“Miracle did absolutely fabulous,” Scott said. “People gravitate to her because of her demeanor and how she looks. When they hear her story, they relate to it because somewhere in their lives they had problems, too.”
Miracle has a knack for being a different dog in different situations. She settles down in nursing homes but gears up in places where people are more active. In the Alzheimer's unit of a care center, Miracle walked up to a client and softly put her head on the woman's lap.
Scott calls training therapy dogs a “huge commitment, but the joy and happiness they bring to the people they meet is absolutely priceless.”
The Schendts look forward to sharing Miracle with others.
Bill, who recently retired from Blain Supply, has volunteered for Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care since 1998. He wants to visit patients with Miracle.
He and Kathy see it as another step forward in an underdog's life.
“Miracle needed so much therapy when she was little,” Kathy said. “Now she gives therapy to others. She's a people magnet, and she's giving back.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.