One of her favorite success stories is that of CJ. CJ was a six year old, rescued Labrador Retriever who suffered from seizures, and he was...excitable. She remembers entering his home for the first time and being greeted by 65 pounds of jumping, kissing fur. He meant well, but he was a lot to handle, and his owners were eager to start training. CJ, though, was smart, and his owners were diligent. He picked up on commands quickly and pretty soon he was sitting politely as people came in the door instead of jumping all over them. It was at this point that his parents approached her and said they knew CJ had more to give, and they wanted him to be a therapy dog. She talked to them about what would be required and the different test he would have to take, and they decided to go for it.
As good as CJ was, he still had some work to do. He got really excited around other dogs, and this posed a problem during his first test. He just wanted to say "hi", but that extra bit of pulling meant he didn't pass. So, they practiced a little more. They met on weekends and the dog park where she made CJ work before he could play. She brought new and exciting dogs to CJ's house where he would have to behave well before he could meet them. They talked about diet changes and exercise to help with both his seizures and his excitement and they worked a lot on what could be done at home when there weren't as many distractions.
It took a few months, but after a lot of practice, CJ went to take the test again. He passed!!! Since that time CJ has put a smile on many faces, his seizures have improved, and he has even welcomed a new brother into his home. Valerie says that still, the memory of seeing how happy his mom was when he passed will stick with her forever. She was supposed to be moving into her new home and was hesitant to leave her husband with the movers, but sharing in that excitement and joy was something she was glad that she did not miss. She is still so proud of CJ and all that was accomplished.