Tracy Calhoun, a longtime nurse, shares her heart-melting memoir of working alongside JJ, the Therapy Dog, the brightest and most intuitive dog Tracy has ever trained. When not mooching dog treats, JJ is dedicated to helping humans cope with tragedy and loss through love and hugs.
Tracy Calhoun, a nurse on staff at Samaritan Evergreen Hospice House in Oregon, paused at the bedside of an elderly patient in a coma. The woman had no family or friends, but the hospice team had learned she liked dogs, so Tracy put her Golden Retriever, JJ, a staff “therapist,” on the woman’s bed. JJ snuggled up, nuzzled a motionless hand, and then settled in, letting her body warmth cuddle and comfort the patient in her final hours. The woman, who had been unresponsive for days, then performed her final, intentional act. She stroked JJ’s head.
Tracy recorded the intimate moment on her phone, then uploaded it to Facebook where she was keeping a modest account for friends, family, and community members who knew her and JJ. In August 2015, that video went viral, and was rapidly seen by tens of millions of viewers worldwide. To Tracy, it was a turning point in her mission to explain to a wider audience the joy that therapy dogs provide, and to do it with humor and canine chaos, as only a dog obsessed with bacon, puppies, and swimming can.
Along the way, Tracy’s own story has grown and changed through her love of animals, and she’s found, in difficult times, she has needed the same comfort her pups offer to patients—for herself.
“These stories of an unforgettable and deeply intuitive Golden Retriever named JJ, as told by her fabulous handler Tracy, are shared with humor and heart. Many wonderful moments happen when working with therapy dogs and reading about JJ’s magic is an extraordinarily moving experience.” — Donna Frindt, Executive Director, Project Canine
“An emotionally satisfying and entertaining collection of tales not only between a dog and her human, but between this remarkable soul in a Golden Retriever suit and dozens of people in crisis—from hospice care to school shootings.” —Janet Velanovsky, Owner, Kaizen Pet Training & Behavior
“An inspiring memoir, JJ’s Journey illustrates the medical and spiritual benefits of the human-animal bond through JJ’s unwavering patience, love, and support for the hospice patients and their grieving families. JJ’s Journey brings to light that in our greatest time of need, every person can feel they are loved, honored, and mean something in this world thanks to the unconditional love that comes so naturally from a therapy dog’s heart.” —Colby Webb, Founder, Sav-a-Bull Rescue and author of Forty One Pit Bulls