If you drove through Highland Park in Elkins a few years ago, you might have witnessed a stray Pug-beagle-mix dog running around or eating from a trash can. If you saw her today, you'd be amazed at the difference a few years and lots of love and training can make.
The Puggle, named LuLu, was caught by Randolph County Animal Control and adopted by an AmeriCorps volunteer and given a warm, loving home. But the volunteer was transferred away from Elkins, and was unable to take LuLu with her to the new location.
LuLu was then adopted by a wonderful family who loved her very much, but they eventually realized that the active dog needed a home where someone was with her day and night.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Therapy Dog LuLu sits with Colonial Place resident James Stalnaker. LuLu visits with her nursing home friends and brightens their days with her warm, friendly personality.
So once again LuLu changed homes, and she came to live at her current home with Frank and Robin Mams.
Robin Mams does not work outside of the home, and she said she felt she had plenty of time to devote to LuLu during the day and the night.
"We enrolled LuLu in eight weeks of 4-H Dog Obedience School and she did really well," Mams said. "She has such a wonderful personality, and so we decided to enroll her in Therapy Dog International classes."
Mams said LuLu did well in her therapy dog classes.
Diane Nuzum, the local evaluator for the program, said LuLu was a perfect fit.
"I am so glad that LuLu is now working as a therapy dog; she is one of the luckiest dogs alive to have been adopted," Nuzum said. "Plus, LuLu is just so darn cute. I know she helps all those whose life she touches."
Nuzum has been involved in the program for more than 20 years.
"There are approximately 10 to 15 local trained therapy dogs in the area," Nuzum said. "The most important trait of a dog for therapy is a good temperament."
There are several places in Elkins where therapy dogs visit, including Colonial Place, Third Ward Elementary School, Davis & Elkins College, Randolph County Senior Center, Youth Health Services and Elkins Rehabilitation and Care Center.
Mams said LuLu visits residents at Colonial Place and students at Third Ward Elementary School. LuLu also participates in Therapy Dogs International Children Reading to Dogs Program. She loves to visit the school children and nursing home residents.
"She gets so excited to visit with the people," Mams said. "She loves to be petted, to be held and to be loved. It seems she gets back as much happiness as she gives."
Mams said by being a therapy dog, LuLu even has an insurance policy just in case anything would get knocked over and breaks. LuLu is required to have 25 visits per year in order to have her Therapy Dog International status renewed.
"Twenty-five visits is no problem," Mams assured. "LuLu loves visiting as much as those she is visiting love seeing her."
At Colonial Place, the residents all ask LuLu to come and sit with them.
"I want LuLu to stay all night with me," Mary Carter said. "I would gladly give her half of my bed."
Mams said LuLu brings back lots of memories of pets the residents had before being at a nursing facility.
"The residents cannot have their pets, and seeing LuLu and spending time with her seems to make them happy," Mams said. "It is a great experience all around."
LuLu also visits with Cathy Duffield's students at Third Ward Elementary School.
"This is so wonderful for the students, because it gives them something they can take care of by themselves," Duffield said. "It also gives them a break and they really look forward to LuLu's visits."
Mams said she is so grateful that LuLu ended up coming to live with her.
"She is so wonderful and has come so far from that little dog running around with no one to love her," Mams said. "Now she is warm, safe and giving back to the community. My husband always asked me who saved who."