Precious, a Shih-Tzu adopted from the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA, is giving back to the shelter that took him in.
Recently, his extraordinary tail, er, tale, helped him earn $5,000 for the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA from which he was adopted. The money came from Petco’s Love Stories initiative, which invites pet adopters to share the story of how their pet has changed their life.
Precious’ story was submitted by Lynchburg’s Angela Blazer, the former caregiver of an elderly Navy veteran, Colin Smith, who has since died. Due to Smith’s age, health, and the COVID-19 pandemic, he was barely able to leave the house, Blazer wrote in her Love Stories submission.
Seeking a way to help Smith, Blazer learned of The Veteran Project, founded three years ago by Jenny Cole. Operating under the umbrella of the Lynchburg Area Veteran’s Council, the project matches veterans with rescue dogs. Cole remembered interviewing Smith, telling him it might take some time to find the right dog to match his request for a “little, fluffy one.” Dogs like that get adopted quickly, she cautioned.
However, just nine days later, Cole said she received a call from E.C. Stone, then director of the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA, one of six shelters she works with on the project. Several new dogs came in, and they were just what she had been looking for. “This has never happened before,” Cole recalled Stone telling her of how quickly Smith’s request was fulfilled.
Cole met Blazer and Smith at the SPCA and there, Smith saw his little, fluffy dog for the first time. Despite protestations from Cole and Blazer that the dog was a male, Smith was insistent on the name of his new companion—Precious.
After bringing Precious home, “Colin smiled and laughed more than he had in ages,” Blazer wrote. The aging veteran “took a miraculous turn for the better.”
The newfound bond between dog and man was too brief. Precious went home with Smith in August,2020. In October, Smith passed away. Cole said Precious’ fate weighed heavily on Smith’s mind before his death.
At Smith’s request, and with permission from the Veteran Project and Veteran’s Council, Precious went home with Blazer.
Sensing that Precious would be able to provide companionship and comfort to others as he already had to Smith and herself, Blazer wrote that she and the little, fluffy dog became a certified therapy dog team with the national Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
The certification process, Cole said, comes with stringent requirements, making the duo’s accomplishment even more extraordinary.
Aside from bringing comfort and joy to those he meets as a therapy dog, Precious has also been able to give back to the organization that took him in, with the potential to earn even more. Blazer’s story about Precious’ incredible journey was selected as one of Petco’s 100 Love Stories winners this year, earning the SPCA a $5,000 grant.
Pending board approval, the funds will be used to purchase additional medical equipment needed for the newly opened Louise R. Lester Spay & Neuter Clinic, SPCA board member Patti Covington said.
The SPCA could win an additional $25,000 grant, depending on the results of a voter’s choice award. Online voting closes December 15.
To read Blazer’s story about Precious, visit petcolove.org/love-story/precious/. To learn more about The Veteran Project, visit myshadowtraining.com/the-veteran-project.