Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Happy birthday, NASA

NASA and his human "mom," Katie Eells. Photo courtesy of Katie Eells.


LAKE COUNTY Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) Facility Dog, NASA, is known and loved by thousands in Lake County and beyond. This March, he celebrates his seventh birthday.

Serving as a CCI working dog in Lake County for more than five years, NASA has contributed to the comfort, joy and healing of his many friends.

NASA’s primary mission is working with physical and occupational therapy professionals at Lakeport rehabilitation centers in Evergreen and Skilled Nursing facilities. Clients exercise with him; he brings play and laughter into what can sometimes be a painful experience.

Recently a physical therapist introduced to NASA a client who had so far refused therapy. The only word she would say was “no,” then she would close her eyes and pretend to sleep.

When she entered the room and saw NASA waiting, her eyes lit up. Cheerfully she brushed and stroked NASA. She threw NASA’s ball and reached to throw it again and again. Touched by NASA’s magic, the therapist watched with tears in her eyes.

While the client lay on a cot to have her contracting leg muscles stretched, NASA snuggled beside her so she could relax and straighten her legs comfortably. This time they fell asleep together! NASA is as good as a pain pill! Now this client “practices” all week so that she can show NASA her progress when he comes next time.

NASA volunteers at the “Thursday Club,” or the Northshore Adult Day Center directed by Caroline Denny and located at the First Lutheran Church in Lucerne. Participants delight in NASA’s presence. He greets them as they arrive, wags them into the room and program while caretakers quietly exit.

Throughout the day he visits everyone, putting his head on laps, shaking hands, encouraging participants to play ball, pet him and talk.

As a Hospice volunteer, NASA helps facilitate eight-week Hospice Bereavement Groups. He always knows who needs a hug. At Wings, the Hospice bereavement camp for families, children sit under a tree, hug NASA, whisper their stories into his ear, and they grieve and heal together. They trust NASA because he keeps everything confidential.

NASA is the official MASCOT (Mature Adults Served by Canine Outreach Therapy) at Lucerne Senior Center. There he visits with many seniors who have given up pets of their own. He brings smiles and laughter. Although he is a large golden retriever/yellow lab mix, his gentle eyes and demeanor invite attention and love.

At 7 years old he is a mature, strong, healthy boy. He loves to play ball, run far and fast, and leap in the air. Recently NASA’s courage and steadiness were tested by a mounted police officer in Sacramento.

With permission, he brought his horse close to NASA. When it leaned down and kissed NASA on the nose, NASA smiled.

“That’s a good dog,” said the officer.

CCI, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Rosa, trains and provides service, hearing, skilled companion and facility dogs.

For more information, call 707-577-1700, TDD 577-1756, or visit their website at www.caninecompanions.org.


NASA sits in the lap of one of his special friends. Photo courtesy of Katie Eells.




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