Zima, 11, retired last month after years of faithful companionship and service. Alice Johnson, 8, left and her brother Woody, 6, read to Zima at the Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Branch Library as part of the library's Read to a Dog program on her last day as a service dog.



I adopted my dog, Zima, from Pima Animal Care Center in 2000. I was there with a friend who was adopting a dog, and just looking around when I saw her. Her card said she was a mixed white shepherd puppy. A worker there took her out for me and when I bent down she ran between my legs and put her head on my shoulder. That did it for me and we already had a dog.

Within two weeks of my mother's death we were in classes to be a licensed therapy dog team through the Delta Society. Zima is now 11 years old and has been doing therapy work for more than 10 years. We have visited the VA, volunteered for Northwest Fire, done safety fairs at hospitals and malls and schools, have visited Methodist, Lutheran and Jewish facilities, been in juvenile detention facilities and the Pima County jail. We are part of the Pima Animal Care Center's Pet Education Team (PET) and through them have visited numerous schools throughout Tucson teaching bite prevention.

Zima "beat the odds" when she almost died three years ago from hemolytic anemia. We have most recently been part of our library's Read to a Dog Program.

Winkie Stephens 

Tedi Bear

We had just lost our dog and were at the Pima County animal shelter looking for a dog to fill the big void in our hearts. As I walked by the kennels my eyes caught site of a black and white puppy. He was fixed on me and would not break eye contact.

I was immediately taken by him. We checked on adoption, but we had to wait four days to see if owner claimed him. He had been found by the dog catcher in the middle of 22nd Street. So we came back in four days and as I walked up to his kennel my heart sank - I did not see him - then suddenly here came a volunteer with him. He was just out for morning walk.

Phew! We signed all the papers and picked him up the next day. He was underweight and had a mite infestation (not from the shelter). We took care of all that. He has turned into the best little doggie in the world. We love our Tedi Bear.

K. Allred


My 18-year-old late dachshund, Wags gave our family 15 wonderful years. Originally named Rags, he had been dropped off at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona by an abusive owner. My little dachshund, Cinnamon, had died unexpectedly and I was caring for my mom who just had open-heart surgery. It was love at first sight when Wags and I met at an adoption center. He mended my broken heart and continued to be my inspiration and confidant. He showed great courage after enduring spinal surgery and paralysis. Our love and trust in each other triumphed. Together we worked to regain the use of his legs. As Santa Paws during Christmas, he brought love and joy to nursing home residents. Rest in peace, sweet Wags, till we meet again.

Fran Stevens


When the electric doors at PetsMart opened, there he was - cuddled in the arms of a HOPE (Animal) Shelter volunteer, a white fluff of fur with big black eyes, our Marley. It was love at first sight, especially between him and his new dad, who held him and let him tentatively lick the end of his nose.

Marley had lived at HOPE only five days and arrived without a history. A 2-year-old Maltese /Terrier mix, it was clear that he had been loved. He was smart, knew some commands, and was not afraid. He trotted into our home, inspected his new yard and watched us closely for the first few weeks. We quickly developed a routine and he thrived. We had his ear infection treated, had him groomed and in no time he was his healthy, handsome self. His antics delight us daily. How did we live without him? We don't know.

Mary Droscher


My name is Lola. I'm an English bulldog. My life is wonderful, but it wasn't always like this. My previous owners didn't give me any attention, so the folds on my face, my ears, eyes, and paws all got infections. Luv a Bull Rescue of Phoenix came to my house one day and took me away. I went to this pet hospital where I was treated for my maladies. It was too late to save the sight in my eyes and my hearing. Then I was placed in a foster home with four other bulldogs, where I stayed for many months. No one wanted a dog that was mostly deaf and blind. One day, a couple came to my foster home. They had just lost their 7-year-old bulldog to cancer. I had given up hope of anyone adopting me, but surprise, surprise. They liked me.

They missed the snoring, nasty stinkers, drool, and sloppy eating of their first bulldog. I can still do all those things even though I'm almost blind and nearly deaf. I was so excited when they put me in the back seat of the car. That was two years ago. Now, my owner, Rob, puts drops and ointments in my eyes, ears, and folds, every night. Rita feeds me wheat-free food and gives me several allergy pills a day. They hug me every night and tell me how much they love me. I may not hear or see well, but I know what they are telling me; that the last years of my life will be free of pain and that I have found the home I had always longed for.

As told to Rita Irwin-Davidson


I went to the pet store to buy doggie Depends and came home with serenity. It wasn't on my list, but I did go looking at the Human Society of Southern Arizona corner. There they were, seven cats of various colors, ages, and sizes hoping for a home. One reached out through the bars, but he didn't like dogs (I have two). Second to the last she was, in the shadows, brown velvet and tan. She liked kids, dogs and cats, but was 12 years old. Her family placed her for adoption because they couldn't care for her any more.

When I opened the door, she came slowly and rubbed her head on my hand. My heart jumped. Then she looked at me with her big blue slightly crossed eyes and I knew I couldn't leave her there. I found a cat that sits on my newspaper, licks the dog and head butts me in the morning until I get up. I know she was loved and cared for. How hard it must have been to give her up. She is beauty, love and serenity and her name is Xena.

Sue Murray


Being an Alaskan shepherd and weighing in at 100 pounds, Dakota is striking in appearance with his teddy bear good looks and adorable personality. He was literally adopted off of a rescue website in the Los Angeles area, (www.WGSR.com). From the beginning Dakota was sweet and loving. It was as though he had always been with us.

Since making his home in Tucson 2 1/2 years ago he has been certified for the VIP pet visitation program through the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. His resume includes places such as care facilities for the elderly, including Alzheimer's units, Casa de la Luz Hospice and VIP work fairs. He works his magic on the young and old alike. Although Dakota is a rescue dog, it is this special animal who has truly rescued so many. He is a gift.

Paddi Moyer


I was active military before being diagnosed with a rare condition causing episodes of confusion, memory loss and stability challenges. I learned about Handi-Dogs service dog training and knew Benny, a Labrador adopted from a rescue group, would be pleased to work with me. Enrolling in Handi-Dogs courses changed my life.

Today, Benny wears a special harness and braces himself to provide support when I need assistance getting up from the ground. Benny walks right next to me to keep me from falling. He also is trained to pick things up, such as keys, pens or other objects, which is especially helpful on days when I require my wheelchair.

Having Benny at my side provides a sense of comfort. I feel safe, and I don't go into a panic mode should I suddenly become confused. Benny helped me redefine my life as a disabled person. I was isolating myself. But, when I started Handi-Dogs training classes I immediately benefited from socializing with others. Benny has enabled me to once again be independent. In fact, if Benny wasn't my service dog, I don't think my husband could have been deployed. Benny is like my right hand.

Suzanne Nelson

(Meet Nelson and Benny at Dogtoberfest on Oct. 23.)