Dogs have a way of warming our hearts and our lives in a powerful way. Lily Plum, a beautiful golden retriever, has done exactly that this past year, as she loves on readers at the Arnolds Park Public Library, local schools and nursing homes, and eventually the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Sioux Falls. Not only is she a library favorite, but Lily has completed her certification for Canine Good Citizen and has become a Love on a Leash certified therapy dog.
“Lily is such a welcoming addition to our library,” said Arnolds Park Librarian Kara Rice. “The kids love to read to her, and so often, she calms down energetic kids and families! They love her!”
Several group homes visit the library regularly, and the residents love to pet Lily. Kara said one individual is nonverbal and Lily naturally shows special attention to this person.
“The person was very uncomfortable around dogs for the longest time, and Lily has loved on the individual to the point where they will pet, hug and kiss her,” she added.
Seven-year-old Lily was adopted over Mother’s Day 2022 by her owner Deb Hayenga at Summer’s Goldens, a family operation in Indiana. After having two to three litters, the mothers become available for adoption, and Deb says she happened to be at the right place at the right time to bring Lily home.
“I always wanted a golden retriever – they have the best disposition, and Lily is just special,” Deb shared. “Even the puppies at Summer’s Goldens were well-mannered. The closest thing Lily has to a bark was once when we put her in the library office because of an uncomfortable guest. She gave us a little whimper, ‘like you hurt my feelings putting me in here.’”
Lily can follow numerous commands well, especially “Sit,” “Lay Down,” “Stay” and one little library visitor has gotten her to roll over – when he rolls at the same time.
“We also find she poses and smiles for a picture,” Deb added.
For the past several months, the library staff noted Lily’s gentle nature with others, and Deb decided to certify Lily as a therapy dog. Lily completed training in October, which included therapy hours at local schools and nursing homes and undergoing a rigorous test.
Lily was put through numerous scenarios to watch how she’d react, where one involved Deb telling her to stay and then she walked 50 feet away. The question was would Lily follow, or would she obey voice commands? Another task had staff making lots of noise, using a walker, and banging on musical instruments around Lily.
“One even threw a cell phone at her lightly, hitting her. I wasn’t thrilled about that activity, but I know what they were trying to accomplish. Lily just looked at them strangely and then kept on walking,” Deb said. “Lily did everything wonderfully that day! For one, prior to the certification testing day, Lily had never stayed for me. She had for others but not me – she passed with flying colors!”
Deb has taken Lily to Spencer and Spirit Lake Elementary schools and specifically is working with special needs students. Going before school or close to the day’s end, Lily will wander classrooms.
“She loves to go around desks and find the kids,” she shared. “Lily has such a calming effect and has made a world of difference to many of them.”
At the nursing home, Deb will bring Lily to the lobby and the residents love to pet her. Deb and Lily will also visit residents’ rooms for those unable to make it to the lobby.
Lily received her therapy number #11065 in November. This certification allows Deb to take her best friend to the Veteran’s Center in Sioux Falls. In the past, she had family members at the VA, and she saw how many didn’t have a support system.
“I want to bring Lily there and visit the residents, who often don’t have anyone come visit them,” Deb said. “Lily has such a gift! I want to use it for the good and provide ways for her to help others.”
To meet this special canine friend, visit the Arnolds Park Public Library on most any day!