Beloved therapy dog remembered
KULPMONT - There's something missing, not only from the lives of Jerry and Bonnie Wascavage, but also from the lives of countless senior citizens in local nursing homes.
Lucky, a certified therapy dog that passed away two weeks ago, once took regular trips to visit the residents of Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Coal Township, Serenity Gardens in Kulpmont and Geisinger LIFE in Kulpmont.
A week before Christmas last year, Jerry and Bonnie Wascavage, of Shady Acres, took their dog Lucky to a veterinarian in Lavelle and discovered their beloved pet had lymphoma cancer. Less than a month later, they were forced to put him to sleep.
"There's a hole in our home and a hole in our life," Bonnie Wascavage, 67, said Wednesday from their home on Poplar Drive.
Lucky, a 12-year-old Shetland Sheepdog, was trained and certified two years ago to be a therapy dog from Therapy Dogs International, based out of Flanders, N.J.
Jerry, 72, is a retired state employee with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Bonnie is a retired dance instructor out of Mount Carmel.
Jerry's daughter, Alison Wascavage, was the main handler and thought the dog would be a good candidate for the job. The first time Lucky was brought in as a therapy dog was at Northwestern Academy, where Alison worked.
Jerry described Lucky as a gentle and loving dog who was patient with children and elderly people and brought joy and happiness into the lives of many nursing home residents.
"All the years we had him, he never growled. He was always friendly. They loved the dog," he said.
Lucky would never fight another dog and would often share his toys and food, he added.
In fact, the couple's miniature fox terrier named Titus would often go along with Lucky on his therapy duties. The patients would hold Titus while Lucky would perform tricks, such as shaking hands, rolling over and catching treats in his mouth, in exchange for animal crackers, Jerry said.
Jane Zak, activity director at Mountain View, said the residents loved the tricks, Lucky's fluffy coat and his good manners.
"It's good for them, it's important to make it (the nursing center) just like home," Zak said.
Lucky used to come in twice a month to visit the residents. There are two other licensed therapy dogs and a staff member's dog named Peanut that also visit, she said.
In the neighborhood of Shady Acres, Lucky would often greet children coming off the school bus or ride with the mail man while he delivered parcels to each house, Jerry said.
In Lucky's last three weeks of life, the couple said the dog stopped eating, drinking and moving, and they knew it was time for her to be euthanized. That happened Jan. 11.
"It was a terribly hard decision, but it's hard for everyone who loves their dog," Bonnie said.
"Lucky was a special and devoted pet," Jerry said.