Small Dog Makes a Big Impact on his Community

From veteran’s companion to furry family member and therapy dog, Precious brings love, joy, and compassion to his community.

Angela + Precious

When Angela was a caregiver for an elderly veteran in need of companionship, she helped connect him with Precious, a sweet fluffy dog who seemed to love helping others. Precious and Angela then became a certified therapy team, bringing their special breed of care and compassion wherever they go. 

"Precious can now do what he does best —cheer people up."

This story is about beginnings, endings, and surprising new beginnings—starting with a lonely Navy veteran in his seventies. Since 2016, I’ve been Colin Smith’s caregiver. With the Covid pandemic, and given his age and health, Colin could rarely leave the house. He was going downhill—what could I do? 

One day, Colin’s case manager told me about The Veteran Project which matches rescue dogs with veterans looking for loyal companions. That evening I spoke to Colin about the program and his face lit up! Immediately we contacted the program’s founder, Jenny Cole. We applied, interviewed, and met the requirements. When Ms. Cole asked Colin exactly what kind of dog he wanted, Colin said, “A little fluffy one.” Then Ms. Cole said, “That might take some time!” But Colin replied, “I’ll wait.”

Well, only nine days later, the Martinsville-Henry County SPCA director phoned Ms. Cole and said they had a Shih-Tzu! Off we went to meet Colin’s new friend. When we arrived and Colin saw the little 2-year-old dog, he got tears in his eyes and said, “I’m naming you Precious.” I said, “He’s a boy!” But Colin said, “I don’t care, his name is Precious.” 

Precious had been taken from a backyard breeder and was covered with flea bites. That first time I saw Precious, I could see his hurt and my heart melted. After Precious came home, Colin took a miraculous turn for the better. Precious seemed to know Colin needed some tender loving care. When they walked together, the little dog always made sure not to trip him, and Precious’ spot was next to Colin on the couch. Colin smiled and laughed more than he had in ages. Precious became special to me as well.

But in the fall of 2020, Colin was admitted to the hospital, where we got the sad news that he didn’t have long to live. What weighed on Colin’s mind was the fate of Precious—where would he go? Colin’s wish was that Precious stay with me since I understood and loved him so much. Sadly, Colin passed away, and through this time, Precious was a great comfort to me. What a relief when The Veteran Project agreed that Precious was mine! But that is just the beginning of a whole new chapter.

Soon I decided Precious had so much to give, he should be a therapy dog. We applied and went through the testing and evaluation. It wasn’t easy, but we passed! Now Precious and I are a registered certified therapy dog team with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a national group. Nursing homes are opening, and Precious can now do what he does best—cheer people up. His favorite visits though are with a little neighbor boy with cerebral palsy. The boy reads stories, and Precious listens. To think, all this joy started with a shelter bringing us one little dog!

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Angela won SPCA of Martinsville and Henry County in Martinsville, Virginia a 2021 Love Stories award.