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A girl's best friend

For 5-year-old Juliet Pope of Lake Oswego, living with Bodhi has been a life-changing experience


Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Within 24 hours of Bodhi going to live with the Pope family in Lake Oswego, Juliet spoke her first four-word sentence:  I want my dog. Juliet Pope of Lake Oswego and her therapy dog Bodhi were among five new service and therapy dogs and their human partners honored Sunday at the annual graduation ceremony for Summit Assistance Dogs in Bellevue, Wash.

Juliet, 5, has a rare genetic disorder called Potocki-Lupski Syndrome, which results in low muscle tone, balance and coordination challenges, cardiac and orthopedic issues and delays in speech and development. She spent the first month of her life in a neonatal intensive care unit and has seen physical, speech/feeding and occupational therapists ever since.

Her parents, Karen and Raymond Pope, say they thought a canine friend could help Juliet with speech development, walking in public and providing comfort at night when she has trouble sleeping. Juliet's 10-year-old brother, Oliver, even created a stop-action animated film using Legos to show officials at Summit how much his sister would benefit from having a therapy dog.

The family was right. Within 24 hours of Bodhi going to live with the Popes, Juliet spoke her first four-word sentence: “I want my dog.”

Karen Pope said Juliet met Bodhi, a 2 1/2-year-old Golden Retriever, during an interview process at Summit's headquarters in Anacortes, Wash. Training started at the Popes' Lake Oswego home in December and is ongoing, she said.

"Bodhi already knew all of the commands," Pope said. "We were the ones who needed to learn."

Now, Juliet takes Bodhi with her everywhere — even to appointments at Shriners Hospital for Children in Portland, where staff and other children also benefit from his sunny disposition.

“Thank you for letting Bodhi come live at my house,” Juliet said.

Summit Assistance Dogs is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 to provide highly-skilled mobility, hearing and therapy dogs for people living with disabilities. Since 2000, it has placed more than 75 dogs in homes across the Northwest.

Since 2010, an integral part of Summit's program has involved working with inmates at the Monroe Correctional Complex, who provide care and training for many of the future therapy and service dogs — including Bodhi.

"All of us at Summit receive such great joy from creating life-changing partnerships between people and dogs,” said founder and Executive Director Sue Meinzinger. “Every client has an inspirational story to tell.”

For more information about the program, go to www.summitdogs.org.

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