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Tails of Joy members volunteer throughout Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties and neighboring towns in Connecticut.

HomeMemory of Jessica


Reprinted with permission from Windham Hospital Stafflink, August 17, 2006

At the end of June this year, we received a short e-mail message: "Sadly, our very special Jessica succumbed to a failing liver and swollen, inoperable leg joints on June 27th. She went to sleep quietly in my arms, wrapped in her purple blanket." Curious, we began to investigate, and discovered the touching story of a compassionate woman and her wonderful dog.

Laurel Perry and Jessica were the first of the Pet Visitation volunteers at Windham Hospital, and served our patients for about 5 years. Jessica was a tri-color Sheltie, six months old when Laurel first met her. "She slathered me with kisses and joyful chuckles - something she has never done since with me or anybody else. I was hooked. She came home with me that day," says Perry.

Not long after the two paired up, Laurel saw a notice at the vet's office about pet therapy training. The two friends went through the Delta Society training and evaluation, passed, and readied themselves to embark on a new adventure. Two days later, says Laurel, Jessica was injured during "an argument with the hostile dog across the street and a fast moving, swaying horse trailer. It was on the 9/11 that Jessica lost one of her front legs and I nearly lost it altogether." Laurel vowed to give Jessica a whole new life to make up for the one she had lost, and found a meaningful retirement activity for herself.

Laurel kept that vow, helped Jessica through her recovery and subsequent re-certification as a "Pet Partner" in animal therapy, and the two began visiting nursing facilities together. "I just provided transportation and an occasional lift into bed. On the second visit, she knew how to hop from room to room, peek into the door and decide if this was a visit room or not. " Ms. Perry took Jessica everywhere "in style-riding on her trademark purple blanket in a lay-flat stroller from the Goodwill."

Laurel continues the story of Jessica-an obvious love story, laced with wonderful anecdotes about her canine friend. "Once she insisted on approaching a stony-faced lady in a wheelchair. The lady motioned me to put Jess up on her chair table-and then threw her arms around Jess, sobbing, "Oh Petie!" Jessica just licked a tear or two and waited for the storm to subside.

JessicaAccording to Perry, Jessica "just knew that a hop across the rehab room would give new energy (and a smile) to hard-to-do exercises. She knew how to cuddle down next to a semi-conscious patient with her muzzle in the hollow of her shoulder so the lady's hands could work in and out of her thick fur. Visiting some special needs children, Jessica patiently sat on a table while a gaggle of Cerebral Palsy girls (whose only sounds were loud squeals and hoots of laughter) brushed and brushed and brushed-using and stretching muscles that were rarely used otherwise. Jess sat quietly next to an autistic boy, who routinely screamed in tantrums of frustration, until he began to respond. He blew Jessica a kiss the last time we visited.

"But our favorite place was Windham Hospital. She always visited the Intensive Care Unit and then one of the regular units, including the outpatient surgery center. She was amazingly deft in dodging wires and tubes to find a comfortable spot next to a seriously ill patient, and was reluctant to leave when the patient was a child. She was a tremendous hit with the staff who knew her by name and greeted her like an old friend. Jessica brought smiles wherever she went."

Our sympathy goes out to Ms. Perry; Jessica will certainly be missed by all who were touched by this special dog and her best friend, Laurel Perry.