Where Do AAT Dogs Come From?
Mark Miller, a flight attendant for American Airlines, has been a loyal and compassionate member of Animal Samaritans’ AAT program for more than 5 years. He started the program with his West Highland terrier, Maxwell, and never imaged that a second dog, equally suited for animal therapy work, would wander into his life.
A few years ago, Mark and his partner Dr. Lenny Seese, received a puzzling phone call: A neighbor had found one of their dogs wandering in the desert. The problem was, Mark and Lenny’s animals were safe at home. Curious, Mark decided to investigate.
Auggie, a three and a half year old terrier mix, was covered with sticks and stickers after spending two days and nights on the loose. The dog’s fur was dirty and tangled. He had no collar and no tags. “We see and hear a lot of coyotes out there,” said Mark. “It’s a miracle he survived.”
Mark took the dog to a local veterinarian to have him looked at. Upon discovering Auggie was microchipped, Mark was able to track down Auggie’s owner in Palm Springs.
According to Auggie’s owner, his dog had slipped out of his collar during a recent visit to the groomer’s and the dog bolted from the store. Auggie darted into traffic and appeared to get clipped by a passing car before scampering out of sight. The entire grooming staff was out looking for him, but the dog was nowhere to be found.
While Auggie’s reunion with his master was sweet, it was ultimately brief. Auggie’s dying owner was enduring the later stages of AIDS. Mark and Lenny spent a long time with Auggie’s owner that day, and made Auggie’s owner a promise: If he needed to “go on vacation,” or had to be away from Auggie for any reason, they would take care of him—for as long as he needed.
The man smiled a knowing smile; he knew what Mark was saying, and yes, he was grateful to know that when he passed away Mark and Lenny would adopt little Auggie, his most precious and dearest friend in the world.
In adopting Auggie, Mark and Lenny have not only provided the dog with a safe and loving home, but also given Auggie a new purpose and joy in life: Animal Assisted Therapy. Auggie now accompanies Mark and Maxwell on their AAT visits to cheer up and bring smiles to the sick and the lonely. Mark says he is the lucky one to have wandered into Auggie’s life.
There’s just no telling how a therapy dog will change a person’s life, including his owner’s.