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home : features : features November 24, 2015

7/23/2014 6:52:00 AM
'Lucy' is a Chino Valley Animal Shelter success story
Courtesy Photo/Dave Morefield
Lucy, an Austrailian shepherd-labrador retriever mix, enjoys being outside with her adopted family, from left, Stephanie, Caitlyn, Jacob and Mark Millsap.
Courtesy Photo/Dave Morefield
Lucy, an Austrailian shepherd-labrador retriever mix, enjoys being outside with her adopted family, from left, Stephanie, Caitlyn, Jacob and Mark Millsap.
Dave Morefield

In March 2014, Stephanie Millsap had to have her 14-year-old dog, Bandit, a black Labrador Retriever/Australian Shepherd mix, put to sleep. She missed him terribly. After three tearful mornings her husband, Mark, convinced her to visit Chino Valley Animal Shelter (CVAS) to look for another dog.

When they and their son, Jacob, spotted Lucy, it was love at first sight. Even so, they decided to visit another shelter before making a decision. Later that day they returned to CVAS and completed the adoption paperwork. Lucy rode home to her new life in the backseat of their car, her head on Jacob's lap.

When they arrived home, the family's three other dogs greeted Lucy happily. Introductions to the family's goats, turkeys and chickens also went smoothly. Lucy was especially drawn to Sookie, a baby goat the family was bottle-raising. For six weeks she was Sookie's surrogate mother, lying down with her, licking her and being alert to her cries when they were apart. When the initial excitement subsided, Lucy curled up on the couch with Stephanie.

Now, three months later, Lucy is part of the family. She watches over the children when they play outdoors.She sometimes herds them away from what she perceives as possible danger, such as an open gate.

Even more remarkable is the connection between Lucy and the Millsaps' daughter, Caitlyn, who has autism. It began when Caitlyn accidentally dropped a pencil. Lucy picked it up and returned it to her. They repeated that scene twice, while Mark and Stephanie watched with surprise. Lucy showed a natural aptitude as a service dog.

Lucy has learned to help Caitlyn calm herself after inappropriate outbursts. She also encourages her to laugh, which she hardly ever does, otherwise. Every day when Caitlyn comes home from school, she looks forward to Lucy's enthusiastic greetings.

Lucy was also an ideal companion during the recent, family vacation in Oregon, according to Mark. She loved scampering on the beach and running up to the edge of the water. She brought Mark a wad of seaweed and wanted to play fetch with it.

In public Lucy displayed her suitability as a service dog. At restaurants she would lie quietly under the table. If anyone noticed and commented on Lucy at all, it was only because she was so well-behaved.

Mark admits that Lucy isn't quite perfect. Although her leash manners are generally good, she sometimes wants to forge ahead too quickly. He plans to contact a trainer who assists adopters of CVAS dogs for more training.

"I couldn't be happier with her. She's the best behaved of our five dogs," Mark said.

Stephanie agreed, although no dog will ever replace her beloved Bandit.

"Lucy has her own place in my heart, just as Bandit does," she said.

For more information about Chino Valley Animal Shelter, including adopting or volunteering, call Bethany at 928-636-4223, ext. 7.

For Animal Control matters, such as a dog running loose or to report a bite, call Officer A. Olander through Yavapai County Sheriff Dispatch at 928-771-3260.

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