One lost dog, many broken hearts |

One lost dog, many broken hearts

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer
Courtesy photo.Happy the dog, a Lhasa Apso therapy dog, cuddles with his owner Colleen Kawcak, a certified nursing assistant. Happy has gone missing, breaking the hearts of seniors at Mountain View Care Center, who enjoyed petting her.

The mysterious disappearance of an 11-pound dog has broken hearts throughout Carson City’s Mountain View Care Center.

Happy, a Lhasa Apso therapy dog who gave his affection to Alzheimer’s patients, somehow slipped through the cracks at the center three days ago. Her owner, the staff and patients want her back.

Owned by Certified Nursing Assistant Colleen Kawcak, the bright-eyed, floppy-eared bundle of fur reported to work with her owner for 13 months.

“She put a little spark on the ward,” Kawcak said. “It’s hard to explain. Patients started petting her and she responded to them.”

Kawcak said the patients were shy at first, reaching down to pet the dog when they thought no one was looking. With time, their response came more naturally.

“She’d greet them in the morning, sometimes falling asleep in their laps, like a little angel,” Kawcak said. “Some of the patients had dogs when they were younger and, for them, this was like having a dog at home.”

Characterized by a decreasing loss of memory, Alzheimer’s disease also affects abstract reasoning and judgment. In the later stages, people often can’t care for themselves and some are bedridden.

Suzie Webb, staff development assistant at the center, said patients have very limited short-term memory and many don’t remember the dog, but most know something is missing.

“Animals are a very important part of their world,” Webb said. “Happy took them back to times they can remember, even if it was just a glimmer. The smiles on their faces when they held that dog could tear your heart out.”

Happy recently received her certification as a pet therapy dog but didn’t require much training. She was a natural, according to Kawcak.

“If a patient could only use one hand, Happy would put her feet on their lap so they could pet her,” she said. “Some of them would put her on their bed and she’d stay, for awhile.”

Kawcak found the dog in a Reno parking lot just over a year ago. She contacted animal services, leaving her phone number for anyone who might call for the dog and waited, but no one claimed her.

“I never owned little dogs. They didn’t impress me, until I met her,” she said. “I had no intention of keeping her, but no one ever called, so I ended up with this cute little dog.”

Happy was last seen in the arms of one staff member, who said she put the her down in the center. A couple of people said they saw her outside, but no trace has been found. Officials have been notified and Kawcak even asked construction workers nearby on South Carson Street to watch for her.

“Maybe she’s with someone else. She’s done so much good for these people here, it can’t be her time yet,” Kawcak said. “She’s so friendly. If someone were driving down road and called her, she’d probably jump in the car.”

Anyone with any information regarding the dog is asked to call Mountain View Care Center at 883-3622, or Kawcak at 265-1764 or 265-2013.