~This blogpost was written by Nicole Selby ~
Moxy was another child of ours and a beloved member of our community. She selflessly shared her love with everyone she met. Moxy made me a huge believer in the Therapy Dog program. I always thought it was nice for people to have the social visit but I never fully understood the impact a Therapy Dog’s presence could have. I have never seen another dog pull people out the way she did. She had such a sense of intuition about people, she always knew when they were hurting, lonely, or struggling in some way. She has positively impacted more lives than I will ever know. From the person who moved or talked again, to the ones she pulled from the depths of sorrow, to the ones she gave confidence, to the ones she inspired to try harder, reach farther, go longer. I will forever be in awe of the amazing work she did...often without me knowing what was going on until well after the fact. I will be forever grateful to have been a part of such an amazing experience.
On March 17, 2010 a tiny red Doberman Pinscher entered this world; those around her completely unaware of the positive impact she would have on thousands of human lives. Her name, “Moxy”.
Born to another gentle soul named “Stella”, this little red puppy chose her destiny with the Selby Family. They had no idea that they were embarking on a journey so much bigger than themselves.
Nicole Selby, a wife and mother of two young girls, had been involved with Therapy Dogs before. Nicole knew that Moxy had the right personality for the job. Friendly, outgoing, smart, and intuitive. Training started right away. Basic obedience, but most importantly Moxy went everywhere, met everyone (human and animal), and did everything with Nicole. She learned very early on that the world was a wondrous place with many people and animals to meet and greet. This early and continued exposure to the world set her up to succeed as a Therapy Dog.
In 2012 Nicole felt that Moxy was ready to try her hand at the Therapeutic Paws of Canada Therapy Dog Evaluation. Moxy put Nicole’s nerves to shame and aced the test. She was ready…the community of Haldimand County was about to meet one of the most giving, caring, and comforting dogs they had ever known.
Moxy started out visiting at The Riviera Retirement Lodge and The Anson Place. Faces of apprehension soon turned to smiles of delight as this big, intimidating, “guard dog” plunked her head in their laps, nuzzled cheeks and hands, gave the occasional gentle lick, and glued herself to their sides. Moxy soon became a resident celebrity and requests poured in for the big red dog to come to their room. Moxy instinctively knew who needed to see her the most, often pulling Nicole to certain people and passing others by with just a quick hello. Nicole quickly learned to let Moxy lead the way as she would find out from staff later what a huge impact Moxy had made. These seemingly normal visits turned out to be so much more. There was the person who hadn’t talked in 5 years, now engaged in conversation with Moxy; the stroke victim who hadn’t moved since, now stroking Moxy’s head; the man who hadn’t eaten or left his room in 3 days, only to fully reengage in life after Moxy’s visit; and all of those that got a little comfort that day from the love Moxy showered on them each and every time she came.
At home Moxy lived with two little girls and a neighbourhood of children who included her as one of their playmates. Nicole knew that this was a dog who had something special to give to the children in their community. After getting their certification to work with children, Moxy began working in several schools and libraries, gaining fame wherever she went. From that first principal who recognized what this special dog could do for his students, to the librarians who opened their doors, to the leaders of clubs and social groups; they all played a part in starting something bigger then themselves. Nicole would often be left wondering if Moxy was still at the end of that leash, as she was swarmed with squealing children who had come to know this amazing dog as their good friend. Moxy would quietly stand as thirty children hugged, pet, and kissed her…all the while wagging her tail as fast as it would go. The teachers would stand in amazement…often remarking on Moxy's calm and loving nature.
Moxy instinctively knew who wanted an enthusiastic greeting and who needed a still, gentle approach. On one visit to Notre Dame Catholic School, Nicole and Moxy met a new family at the front doors who had just dropped of their children for their first day in this new school. After learning why Moxy was there, the mother informed Nicole that her son was deathly afraid of dogs and hoped that Moxy would be the tool to help him overcome this. They cautiously approached the classroom for their normal Paws to Read visit. There, being introduced to all the children on the carpet, was the new boy. His eyes got big and wide and then came the tears as he fled into the farthest corner of the room. Can you imagine anything worse on your first day in a new school…coming face to face with your biggest fear? Nicole and Moxy made no move to go see the boy and at the teacher’s urging continued their normal visit with the rest of the class. The boy was assured that he would never have to interact with Moxy if he didn’t want to, and could watch from afar. But each week when Moxy returned that boy inched closer to the circle until one day he decided to join the group and take a turn reading to Moxy. At first it was from ten feet away, then seven, then five, and then one happy day he parked himself next to Moxy and declared her his friend. From then on that boy was one of Moxy’s biggest fans, his mother was eternally grateful for the patience and gentle nature Moxy showed, allowing him to meet her on his own terms. He now has a dog of his own and greets other dogs with the same enthusiasm as he did Moxy, his life forever changed.
There are two special classes at Cayuga Secondary School that Moxy worked with helping those students work through the disabilities and conditions that life had handed them. Moxy taught them pure acceptance, courage, and friendship. She both helped them blossom and reigned them in. Moxy gave them the encouragement and motivation to reach past their comfort zones, try new things, and push past boundaries: a shy student, happy and excited to introduce Moxy to five new people in the school; a student who refused to walk, throwing himself on the floor and bashing his head on the wall, motivated to walk long distances with Moxy at his side; an exuberant, energy overflowing, bouncing student, who was able to walk calmly with Moxy’s quiet demeanor; a student in pain, motivated to try more, push farther and go longer. But it worked the other way too, the general student body would approach these students to enquire about their new furry friend, making each student’s chest puff out with pride, smile from ear to ear… people were now seeking them out!
Moxy and Nicole could often be found mentoring new Therapy Dog teams. Moxy was the perfect example to a new team of how to conduct a visit and could often be seen giving a new dog the, “I’m working…this is not the time to play” look. Those new dogs would take cues from her calm behaviour, learning more from her than they could in a dozen visits without her -- she brought out the best in them. Outside of work Moxy played hard. But at work, she was a true professional.
TRAGICALLY on March 2, 2016, just two weeks before her sixth birthday Moxy was struck down with Cervical Spondylomyelopathy (CSM), or Wobbler Syndrome -- her spinal cord was pinched in her neck from a degenerative disease causing neurological damage. After a sudden onset of full paralysis, she gallantly fought back for two months before finally succumbing to a fatal heart arrhythmia in the end.
Only two weeks before she passed, Nicole and Moxy met a woman with a cat in the waiting room of the veterinary office. Moxy, who would normally wait patiently, insisted she be allowed to see the lady. A woman at the desk tried to call Moxy over but Moxy would have none of it. When the lady with the cat beckoned Moxy, as sick as she was, Moxy practically bounded over and definitively glued herself to this woman, with head in her lap. The woman, near tears, remarked, “she must have known I really needed this today” – she’d endured a terrible family tragedy days earlier. Moxy just knew. This was how it always happened and Nicole learned to trust the intuition of a dog who could read the situation far better. Moxy always put the needs of those who needed her most far above her own.
Moxy. An incredible dog who reached so many, and accomplished so much in her short life. A dog who opened doors, hearts, and minds. A dog who became an ambassador for the Doberman Pinscher breed. A friend, a confidante, a mentor, a motivator, and a beloved member of the community. A true Therapy Dog.