You could spot one of Joe’s dogs a mile away — whistle and they raced to his side waiting for more direction. It all started with a doctor’s prescription to walk off some fat and lower his blood pressure. Joe drafted a neighbor’s dog and walked up a wooded path that led to an eight-year passion.
He never volunteered for the job of puppy raiser for LOVE HEELS Canine Partners; he was drafted. Some of us at Kearny Mesa Dog Park watched as Joe and Kona circled the park, an invisible leash tethering man and Lab. Joe and Kona, best buddies.
And I was looking for puppy raisers, experienced dog handlers who could help me prepare canines to partner with people with special needs.
I asked. He said no. I had a plan. He never had a chance. Nine puppies later, Joe has traveled to Rainbow Ridge to romp with some very patient dogs who have been waiting for him to cross over.
Otis and Breosa, two of his earlier puppies, died of cancer at ages two and three. Our hearts were broken but he held their heads and helped them cross over. He promised he would come get them some day. Same promise to Kona, the big white Labrador who brought him to LOVE HEELS. What a happy reunion they must of had as they headed off to heaven.
But, back to the beginning . . . My plan to enlist Joe’s help was simple, a sweet-faced nine-week old Lab and me with one shoe lace untied. I asked him to hold the puppy (once he noticed my untied shoe). Shadow looked into his eyes and convinced him to take her home. I remember his laugh when he proclaimed that this was the dirtiest trick he had ever seen. The next day he climbed the hill with Kona and a little black bundle struggling to keep up with the pack.
Shadow, he named her, in honor of his first puppy. Kona and Joe trained her well, she was partnered with a wonderful therapist who helps abused kids become whole again. Never again was he without a well-trained dog and an insolent puppy.
Otis and Breosa followed, and Rascal. Samantha Jane, another black Lab works with an occupational therapist encouraging children with physical challenges to run, throw, twirl and reach for the stars. She does a mean army crawl, too.
Rascal tends to three children with various needs. Breosa had her own little man before she died of cancer; Zander now has Dancer. Then there’s Oliver, the most beautiful white golden retriever who has a family meeting his every need. At nine months we knew he wasn’t a working dog. He was a master at working people so we released him. He’s still the most beautiful beast and takes your breath away. Joe said he never had a favorite but he lied. It was always Oliver.
Loki was his athlete; Otis was his big baby boy. The day we decided to put Otis down, Joe cried so hard he couldn’t catch his breath. He made me promise I would never tell anyone. I never did. Not till now.
Joe died yesterday, holding on until he made sure that Recon was with his forever family. Joe picked a Marine hero, Jed. He met Jed and his wife, Anna, and declared that this was his boy’s mom and dad. The best part was that Recon will be a big brother in a couple of weeks. Joe always said Recon needed kids to love. He’s getting a baby sister, Alona.
Jetta will be finished by me and I can only hope that I can make Joe proud.
You are loved, my friend, and the best of you will remain with us. Promise.
–Your friend, Patricia
To take a pup and train it to be a loving, working companion for someone else who needs it more is one of life’s greatest gifts. Good work, Joe!
Awww Patricia what an amazing story of Joe. I remember meeting him a couple years ago with Recon and I think Loki was there also. I remember thinking that he was such a cool man the way he loved and knew all the dogs that were there at the dog park that morning. I send our prayers and thoughts to all of his family and friends, both human and canine :-)Monica & Steve
Joe was the neighborhood hero. Everyone knew Joe through his dogs and through his friendly and warm disposition. I will always be thankful to Joe and Patricia for bringing their dogs in training to the children at the Center. Most of the children ran up to the dogs without reservation, knowing intuitively the gentle nature of the dogs. There were others who exhibited some fear, but with Joe and Patricia’s guidance they were able to understand the beauty of the connection with the dogs. Joe will be missed but his kind spirit will be remembered.
I remember meeting Joe when he was walking Kona. Bella was about 5 months old and all over the place. Joe picked her up looked her in the eye and she promptly smooched all over his face! Joe gave that great belly laugh he has. Bella and I have loved him ever since. Joe helped me teach Bella to walk a log. All of us at the dog park know how he loved teaching “log walking”.
Joe we are going to miss you, but we will celebrate our time with you and think of you every time we look at our four legged partners.
I just read of Joe’s passing and am sad for the loss. Being neighbors with him for about a year we got to know him well. Jake, our beagle, instantly fell in love with Joe and would often break out of our house to come down to him. He taught us so much about raising a dog and making Jake part of our family. Any dog or person who was able to know him should consider themselves lucky.