Jessie warms up to new people quickly and loves to be cuddled. Her calm demeanor makes her the perfect therapy dog, and her gentle nature is reassuring to the people she visits in nursing homes and hospitals.

But it was only recently that Jessie was able to use her talents. For the first several years of her life, she was a commercial breeding dog. She lived among 100 other dogs in cages, bred repeatedly, never experiencing kindness or love.

In March 2018, Friends of Flicka provided Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest with a grant to rescue her. In the blink of an eye, her life was transformed.

She was just a peanut of a dog, timid and small. Like many puppy mill dogs, Jessie was very shy and scared. When she arrived in her foster home, she was so fearful and unsocialized she had to be carried up and down steps and in and out of the car. Everyday noises – the vacuum, furnace, and television – terrified her. But Jessie was trying so hard to be brave, and she had the perfect foster family to support her.

The family’s two resident dogs mentored her and gave her courage. Following their example, Jessie learned basic dog skills. Her family worked hard to help her feel safe and supported, and provided her with safe places to retreat and hide when she was overwhelmed.

Jessie soon learned that car rides weren’t scary – they led to walks along Lake Superior, an activity she loved. She also learned that new people shouldn’t be feared – they were all potential friends. A few weeks after her rescue, her foster mom wrote, “Jessie has the gentle sweet spirit of an angel. That is the only way to describe her. She does not meet people with exuberance but with a calm, slow greeting, tail wagging all the way.” It was a trait that would serve her well in the future.

Her foster family had taken in many dogs in need, finding permanent families for each. But Jessie was extra special, and it would be hard to let her go. “Every once in a while you foster a dog that captures your heart,” her foster mom said, “and you don’t think you could ever part with them. Jessie is that dog for me.” But her foster mom knew there was one thing Jessie needed that she couldn’t provide – another young playful dog to be her companion.

Each day Jessie would do her best dance and play bows to get the family’s resident senior dogs excited, but they weren’t very interested. Jessie had the chance to play with an 8-month-old dog, and they wrestled and chased for hours. Having a young playmate would be important for her long-term future.

In May, the perfect family came along just in time for Mother’s Day. Jessie would have a wonderful new mom and a great new dad. The family also included a young dog brother to play with and an older dog to watch over her.

The love and support of her family allowed Jessie to blossom, and before long you would hardly know Jessie had once been a nervous, shy dog. She jumped excitedly into the car for rides, raced up and down the steps, eagerly passed through doorways and into her yard, and took treats from anyone she met. You could see her confidence in her walk, her formerly tucked tail up high and wagging.

Amazingly, a few months after her adoption, Jessie passed the test to become a registered therapy dog. She visits hospitals and nursing homes, gently providing encouragement and love to those she meets. Having been through rough days herself, she naturally relates to those she visits. Her gentle spirit is a gift she shares with those who are going through a tough time.

Jessie sports her certified therapy dog bandana.

When she’s not helping people heal, Jessie loves spending time with her family – visiting the park, snuggling, going for walks, playing with her younger dog brother Boika and nestling with her older dog brother Skipper.

The perfect family: Jessie with dog brothers Boika and Skipper

The love of her family makes Jessie so happy, she even has a special dance when she sees them. She jumps up and down on her hind legs, waving her paws up and down, moving her head back and forth.  Her family calls it “the dance of her people” and it brings an equal amount of love and joy to them.

“We call her ‘Jackpot Jessie’ because we won the jackpot when we adopted her,” her family says. The same could be said for Jessie.