4 days from being euthanized, Lucky gets new life as therapy dog

It’s fair to say that “Lucky” is one very lucky dog. After being rescued from a shelter the same week he was scheduled to be euthanized, he has found a new life as a therapy dog at Central Carolina Hospital (CCH) in Sanford.

Lucky was found in a roadside ditch in Dillon, SC, two years ago. He had wounds on his face and ears. It was believed that he was attacked by other dogs.

At the shelter, his wounds were treated. He was also found to have intestinal worms. He stayed at the shelter for a week, but there were no takers for adoption.

Four days before he was scheduled to be put down, J.R. Poe, of Broadway, heard about Lucky. A friend of J.R.’s who does rescue work called and said he believed Lucky would make a great therapy dog, replacing J.R.’s previous therapy dog, Buddy, who had passed away.

J.R. took Lucky to his vet, where he spent three more weeks healing from his wounds. He is fully healed and has completed school to get certified as a therapy dog with N.C. Pet Partners. He also has completed Animal Assistance Activities (AAA) and Animal Assistance Therapy (AAT) and is registered as a USA Service Dog.

J.R. serves as the official “Paws for a Cause” dog therapy volunteer at CCH. He is certified by N.C. Pet Partners as a handler and has been visiting patients and staff with his dogs at CCH for the past 13 years. He has been providing pet therapy services for 25 years, visiting other area hospitals and retail businesses, as well as the Lee County Enrichment Center for seniors.

A native of Sanford, J.R. is a Vietnam War veteran who earned a Bronze Star, among other commendations, for his service in the Army from 1969 to 1971. He is a proud member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the father of one son, Ray, who works in the HVAC business in Sanford.

Earlier this year, J.R. created a nonprofit organization, J.R. Poe Therapy Dog Ministry, for his therapy program. He strictly relies on local donations — including stuffed animals he gives away, which have been paid for partly by J&F Amusements of Sanford — to keep his enterprise afloat.

Twice a week, J.R. and Lucky, now age 4, make rounds at CCH, providing visitation to select patients to provide social, emotional and healing support. Lucky wears a bright red vest that says “Therapy Dog — Pet Me” and has never met a stranger. His wagging tail is his trademark greeting, and he eagerly obeys all J.R.’s commands in exchange for frequent doggy treats.

Lucky goes from room to room or meets patients in designated areas in group settings. Hand hygiene is strictly monitored for infection control, and surfaces are cleaned after therapy sessions. Certain immunocompromised patients and patients with allergies to dogs are not allowed to participate.

The biggest beneficiaries of his visits are not just patients but hospital staff and doctors.

J.R. recounts one nurse he visited who was having a bad day at work. “She got down on the floor, and she started hugging him [Lucky], and she started crying….” One doctor told him, “You do more with that dog than we do with medicine.”

“We give them a lot of encouragement, a lot of hope and assurance,” J.R. said. “We’re just trying to bring a lot of joy and happiness to them.”

“The rewards are when you lay down at night, and you ask, what have you done to help somebody,” J.R. said. “I think it’s a gift — a gift from God.”

It’s also a gift from Lucky, who clearly has a way with people. On second thought, it’s fair to say that the patients and staff at CCH are the “lucky” ones.

Feature photo: J.R. Poe and Lucky.

Contributed/Courtesy photo.

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