Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE PROTECTOR


Nekayah just never ceases to amaze us. Just when we think she has reached the circumference of her training she demonstrates she has more beyond. I have studied, researched and self-educated so I could be very particular in training Nekayah for her service as a hearing-impaired assistance dog. Linda is deaf and I thought, “What a wonderful gift to provide Linda a dog that could assist her in her impairment. Nekayah’s serious training began at three months and when I reached my limit I contacted Kevin Knartzer of, Tails Up Paws Down, Indianapolis, IN. For several months Kevin worked with us, giving us the foundations for teaching Nekayah specialized alerts. Some of Nekayah’s alerts are for different sounds in the house. An especially helpful alert is the phone. When the phone rings Nekayah finds Linda and nudges her in a certain way that says, “Linda, the phone is ringing.” When we are in a restaurant Nekayah alerts when our table is approached. When we are out Nekayah alerts when someone is approaching Linda from behind. Somehow Nekayah can differentiate between a passerby or someone approaching Linda. If Linda drops something, Nekayah picks it up and gives it to her.

Nekayah is also trained in assisting Linda up inclines or stairs. She knows just the right pressure to pull without causing a stumble.

There are many times that Nekayah surprises us with her understanding of our needs. An example of her assisting with inclines took place at my brother’s farm just a few weeks past. I was helping my brother cut trees, carrying the debris down a steep hill about fifteen yards and throwing it on a fire, and climbing back to the top. After an hour of this, this old man was getting tired. My legs had a hard time putting one foot ahead of the other. Nekayah was playing and having a great time. About every half hour she would come to me as if to check in, then off she would go again. This time she seemed to sense my tiredness. When I turned to go up the hill she came beside me and nudged me with her head. I understood her perfectly. She was saying, “Take my collar, I’ll pull you.” That is exactly what she did for the next half hour. She would follow me down the hill, wait, I’d throw my debris on the fire and she’d pull me back up the hill. When I was done off she went to play.

Well, today she surprised us again. We were at the mall. We wanted to get her out to enjoy some new surroundings, smells, and activity. When we approach the lane of traffic, entering or exiting, she normally sits before we cross. Usually the cross traffic stops and Linda proceeds. This time there was no traffic to the right or left but there was a car directly in front of Linda and it began to pull forward right at Linda. Nekayah saw the car and quickly jumped between Linda and the car, placing her body sideways. It was as if she was pushing Linda out of way to take the impact herself. We had no idea that Nekayah would think to do that. The people in the car couldn’t believe what they saw. It just seems that Nekayah understands she is an assistance dog and her job is to take care of Linda in whatever form that means. Nekayah has an uncanny way of filling in the blanks of her job description. When we put Nekayah in the car Linda loved and hugged her with tears. Nekayah’s reaction to it all was like, “What’s the big deal.”

Nekayah has had lots of training and we are most grateful for the time and expertise of Kevin and a few others. But there has to be something there to work with. Nekayah has that something and she is a natural as both an assistance dog and a certified therapy dog. More than all that she has partnered herself to us and so often just anticipates our needs. She has found her place and purpose in life and we are thankful they are with us.



A nursing home called me and asked if I would bring Nekayah who is both TDI (Therapy Dog International) and Hearing-Impaired Service Dog certified. It seemed there were two residents especially they wanted her to see. One was a gentleman, paralyzed and blind, with feeling in only his arms and head. I’ll call him, “Jack” and he is only about 50 years old. “Jack” was not responding well to therapy and seemed deeply depressed. The other resident was a lady, depressed and not interacting.

Nekayah went in to see “Jack.” Being able to hear, the nurse told him he had a very special visitor, that the visitor was furry. “Jack” did not respond. I can’t get into Nekayah’s head (don’t we wish we could), but she looked at him as if she was assessing. She put her feet gently on the bed (sensitive to the person’s body) raising herself up and continued to gaze at “Jack.” As if she said, “now I understand” she gently laid her head in the his motionless hand as if she knew that was where his feeling was. She lifted her head and licked his hand and again cradled her head in his hand. She then moved her head to lay it in his shoulder as she usually gives hugs. She snuggled her head in his neck and licked his ear as if she thought, “I know how to get him to respond.” Suddenly “Jack” moved his lips slightly. The nurse quietly said, “look.” Those around “Jack’s” bed stood motionless as “Jack lifted his right hand, to touch Nekayah. He then raised his left hand to bring it across his body touching her now with both hands. Nekayah, sensing his response, began licking “Jack’s” face as his head turned back and forth as if he were reveling in her licks. His mouth moved into a huge smile showing all his teeth. “Jack’s” blinded eyes seemed to sparkle as his mouth smile morphed into a full facial smile. Nekayah seemed to know what was happening and she would move from hugs to licks fluidly. She was now laying somewhat across “Jack’s” chest. I looked up and the nurse and family stood with tears running down the cheeks, remarking, “I just can’t believe it.” as we just let “Jack” and Nekayah enjoy themselves. Nekayah will go back and visit “Jack” and we hope this is a break through for “Jack’s” responding to therapy.

Then I took Nekayah to see one of the sweetest elderly ladies. At first she said she didn’t want to see Nekayah. She just turned her head away. The nurse ( I think she understood operant conditioning) said, “just look at her. The lady, let’s call here “June,” looked at Nekayah. She responded by saying, “what a pretty dog.”

“Would you like to see her?” asked the nurse. “June” held out her hand slowly as if she were asking Nekayah if SHE would like to see her. Nekayah sauntered over to June and laid her head in her lap and lifted her eyes upward without moving her head. “June” carefully touched Nekayah and began stroking her neck. Then, as I usually do, I placed a treat in “June’s” hand (Nekayah only knows “good” hands). “June” understood and opened her hand to Nekayah who promptly took the treat and proceeded to lick “June’s” hand. “June” just came alive. Her whole face broke into a smile as she repeatedly exclaimed, “She touched me! She touched me! Oh, bless you, she touched me.” And looking at me “June said, “I could just kiss you, she touched me.” Both the nurse and I now have tears in our eyes. I told Nekayah to kiss “June” and Nekayah gently raised herself to “June’s” face and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek, and the whole response of “June’s” was repeated. We also hope this was a break through for “June’s” successful therapy.

Do therapy dogs make a difference? You bet they do!



Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE FEAR-BREAKER


Fears are hard to overcome. Florence came to the Rehabilitation Center several months past. I knew Florence was a new resident and I also took note that when Nekayah and I walked down the hallway Florence stayed to one side, never taking her eyes off of Nekayah. In fact, the first time Florence saw Nekayah she was wide-eyed with fear. When I visited her roommate, Norma, I would ask Florence, “Would you like to see Nekayah?” I would receive a fearful, “No.” Now, these patients have enough to deal with. After all they are seniors. They have had to leave their homes. They are separated from their families. Many of them feel rejected, neglected, often abandoned. It is not my place to foist Nekayah on any patient. I know those who want to interact and those who do not. I always want to respect their wishes and do not take it personally.

On this Monday I took Nekayah in to see Norma. Florence kept her back to Nekayah, avoiding eye contact. As I prepared to leave the room I had Nekayah sit in a place out of Florence’s sight. I sat on the bed by Florence and said, “Florence, you are really afraid of dogs, aren’t you.” “Oh yes,” she said in a quiet voice. “Can I ask you why?” She proceeded to tell me of her longtime fear of dogs. Her fear centered around a pitbull that threatened her life. I listened to her story and told her I understood and if what happened to her happened to me I would have a very difficult time overcoming the fear she felt. I then explained to her how Nekayah is trained both as a service dog and a therapy dog. I told her about some of the people Nekayah has helped. I ask her if I could call Nekayah to sit in front of me, but away from her. Florence gave me that permission. Nekayah , slowly, came into our view and sat in front of me. We talked about Nekayah’s size, her spots and her ice blue eyes. Florence said, “She is a very pretty dog.” Nekayah did not look at Florence and moved a little closer to me and put her head in my lap. “If you want to overcome your fear Nekayah is a perfect dog for you to get to know.” Florence would now look more often at Nekayah. I pointed to a spot between Florence and me. Nekayah moved and laid her head on the edge of the bed. Now Florence was feeling closed in and I didn’t want to push the envelope. I was surprised when Florence took a giant step and asked, “Will she bite me if I touch her?” I assured her that would not happen. I told Florence, “You just sit there and I will have Nekayah sit in front of you and she will just lay her head in your lap. Okay?” With a deep breath, Florence said, “Okay.” Nekayah did just as I said. Nekayah did not move and I assure you, Florence did not move. With great hesitation, fear and trembling, I saw Florence’s hand make a very slow, uncertain movement toward Nekayah. I cannot adequately describe the challenge this was for Florence. She touched Nekayah’s head and instantly pulled her hand back. Nekayah has not moved. She reached out to touch Nekayah again. Still Nekayah has not moved. This time Florence put her hand on Nekayah’s head and slid it back to her neck. “She’s a nice dog,” Florence said.

“I’ll be back next Monday, would you like me to bring Nekayah to see you?” “I’d like that very much.”

So for Florence she is stepping out of her fear. Nekayah is helping Florence to feel comfortable with a dog. It is a big step, but I am glad Florence is willing to take it.



 Saturday, May 25, 2013I needed to go to Walmart. I needed to fill a prescription for Linda, and get some meat products to prepare some dog treats. As usual I took Nekayah with me. Well, the pharmacy was closed so I could at least get the needed meat products. Nekayah and I meandered through the store, we went to the meat section and taking my time selected the items I would need. As I headed for the check-out I noticed an aged lady sitting on her walker. Her face was looked fatigued and frightened. Her husband was trying to comfort her. Both were in their eighties.

I parked my shopping cart, placed Nekayah in a down, and approached the couple. “Are you in need of some assistance?” I asked. The gentleman told me his wife suffers with claustrophobia. He said the store, being exceptionally busy, put her in a state of anxiety. I tried to talk to her but she was nearly catatonic. She was in an acute state of anxiety. I asked the husband if she liked dogs. He said they love dogs. I told him Nekayah is not only a service dog, but also a certified therapy dog. If he didn’t mind I thought Nekayah could help. With his permission I called Nekayah to me. As Nekayah knows to do, she sat about a foot in front of the lady and scooted forward. Nekayah is very careful not to step on the feet of the person she is tending to. Now up to the lady Nekayah placed her chin in her lap and looked upward. The lady did not react. Nekayah then nudged her hand and again placed her head in the lady’s lap. The lady looked down and her face expressed surprise as if she was unaware of Nekayah’s presence. Her response was, “Ohh,” and her hand moved across her lap to touch Nekayah’s head. When she touched Nekayah her face seemed to relax. Nekayah reached to lick her hand which she allowed. She began to pet Nekayah with both hands and she was now focused and talking to Nekayah. I stood and watched this lady’s anxiety fade away. She was able to calm down and look around with a sense of confidence. The lady was returning to her normal self, began asking me questions about Nekayah, and her breathing returned to normal.

Having recovered I asked if Nekayah and I could walk her to the car. The lady said there were a few more things they needed to get. I checked out, but before I would leave I needed to go back and check on this lady one more time. I found her and her husband and when she saw me her face became one big smile. I asked if everything was okay and she assured me she was now alright. Again she petted Nekayah and talked to her, then told me, “Thank you.” I could tell this was a different lady than the one Nekayah assisted a few minutes past.

Again, God knew where Nekayah was needed and directed us to this needy lady. A dog filled with love and compassion, knowing how to apply these to persons in need, again worked healing to one in distress. God uses Nekayah to do what a human, with all their possible training, cannot do.

Chronicles of Nekayah, NEKAYAH, THE COUNSELOR


While visiting a rehab center Nekayah and I visited “Bob.” “Bob had been in the VA hospital in another city for about three weeks. I had missed him on my visits and had some concern for him. Well, “Bob” returned and when we walked into the room he started to get up as he said, “Oh, there’s that sweetheart. I’ve missed her so much.” I told him not to get up that Nekayah would come to him. “Bob” is a diabetic and is in this facility because he cannot be home alone. He had lost his desire to live and care for his diabetic issues. “Bob” is about 75, is smart, and a poet and painter, but tends to be reclusive and deeply depressed.

I asked him how he was doing and he said in a cracking voice, “Not very good.” His lower lip began to quiver. With concern I asked, “Bob” what’s the matter. Sensing something, Nekayah scooted up to the bed and placed her snout on the bed and stared at “Bob.” “Bob” looked at the concerned face of Nekayah and his eyes filled with tears as he said again, “Ohhh you sweetheart.” Nekayah had studied long enough. She looked as if to assess how much room there was on the bed. Determining there was room for her she jumped up on the bed, laid along side “Bob” and placed her head across his neck. “Bob” wrapped his arms around her as if physical contact had been lacking for a long time. Nekayah never moved or pulled her head out of his grip. “Bob” released his hold and Nekayah reached up and began licking his bearded face profusely. “Bob” is now laughing because no matter which way he moved his face Nekayah kept licking as if this was a game. Yet, tears of sadness were on his cheeks. Perhaps this is what Nekayah noticed and was trying to calm “Bob.”

“I wish I had someone to love me like you do, you sweetheart,” “Bob” said. Then as if I was not in the room “Bob” began to tell Nekayah how difficult he was to live with and how, after 50 years of marriage his wife left him and two of his sons wanted nothing to do with him. He told Nekayah that his other son is a lawyer and how close they are and that this son takes care of all his affairs. “I felt so worthless this morning and asked God to send me something that would tell me I am worth loving, and here you are laying close to me, not because your master told you to, but because you wanted to. “Bob poured his heart out to Nekayah who laid close beside him with her head on his chest, looking upward at him as he talked, and every now and then giving him and big kiss, first on one cheek, then the other. For about fifteen minutes “Bob” and Nekayah had a conversation in their own respective ways. There was no doubt that this was their time.

I then sat down beside “Bob,” Nekayah still lying beside him between us. “Bob” and I talked for about ½ hour. Nekayah stayed right where she was and from time to time would move her head across “Bob’s” chest, then over his neck, then on his shoulder, then a gentle lick, all of which seemed to be punctuations in our conversation.

I left “Bob” to go visit some other patients and when I left I passed the offices near the front doors. I caught something of interest just to my right. There sat “Bob” in one of the offices with one of the staff talking and laughing. I think God responded to “Bob’s” prayer and sent something that would tell him he is worth loving. Linda and I visited him a week later and he was still on top of his depression and he told Linda he attributed his improvement to that day with Nekayah because she listened to and loved him.

Now, I’m writing this March 16, 2009. “Bob is completely out of his depression, writes and publishes poetry, is writing a book, and every day “could not be better.” I am told he is never depressed, and counsels other patients who are having struggles. He tells me that in many ways these last eight months are the best months of his 80 years. He continues to see Nekayah every Monday. He and Nekayah have a little ritual all their own. He lays on the bed, Nekayah jumps up, lies across his chest and they have their own conversation intermingled with lots of kisses.



It was a Monday afternoon that I received the phone call. “Jim, a lady in our congregation died. Pastor is out of state, would you step in for him.?” Ours is a large congregation and as I am usually busy with our deaf ministry, I did not personally know Karen. I made the proper contacts and learned Karen had two children, a son and daughter from another state. I knew this had to be hard for them as their relationships in Muncie were few. They certainly did not know me, and they were being asked to trust their mother’s funeral service to a stranger. I knew that was a lot for them to deal with in the process of their mother’s sudden, unexpected death. I had to find a way to alleviate them of that unneeded stress. It was my responsibility to get with the children to familiarize myself with them and their mother. I made contact and we planned to meet at a local restaurant.

I knew full well the difficulty for all involved. I had to walk into a deeply sensitive life’s situation and talk about some very personal issues with no personal relationship with any involved. This would be awkward. In our meeting together how they saw me in the first few minutes would determine if they would or would not confide in me and talk about their mother. If I would bring hope and healing to them I had to earn that right with our first handshake. How would I do that?

Thinking about the importance of that lunchtime, I glanced at Nekayah lying in front of the fireplace. What if I would take Nekayah to the restaurant with me? As a service dog, I could, but it was her therapy training and relatability that I needed. Nekayah has an uncanny ability to do two things. First, break the ice; second, put others at ease. When Nekayah knows she is working she exudes calmness and affirmation. As odd as it would seem, I took Nekayah to the lunch meeting to discuss a funeral.

I arrived early and waited inside the doors. Nekayah sat at her heal position. A young man and woman entered, and it was obvious they were looking for someone. I stepped forward, and Nekayah followed, again sitting at my side. “Brian and Angie?” “Yes, are you Mr. Turner?” “Yes, I am.” “And who is this?”  With that they knelt in front of Nekayah. I released her and it was as though she knew their hearts were heavy. In a polite, calm and affectionate manner she licked their hands, and as they knelt with her she laid her head in one lap, then the other. As they talked to her she would slowly raise her head to give them gentle licks on their cheeks.

I watched it happen just as I had hoped. In those couple of moments the ice was broken, Brian and Angie felt loved and accepted, and that was transferred to me. Our lunch lasted for 1 1/2 hours and we talked about their mother’s family, life and faith. We laughed and cried together. During our lunch Nekayah laid quietly and politely as usual. The last ten minutes of our lunchtime was a time of interaction with Nekayah. A therapy dog at heart, she is a wonderful ambassador of affection and comfort.

From our conversation and with my information I went home to prepare for the funeral the following morning. This would be a difficult funeral as their mother, only 54, died unexpectedly. That morning the people gathered, the message of hope delivered, the prayers prayed, and I believe healing was begun. For me all was complete. But I discovered something was missing for Brian and Angie. It was at the closing of the service that I then realized how important Nekayah was to the grieving process in the loss of this young mother. Both Brian and Angie came to me and said, “Where is Nekayah? We had hoped you would bring her with you for the service for our mother.” WOW! What an incredible compliment to Nekayah. I thought it best not to take a dog to a funeral. But that was my thinking. It was in error. Brian and Angie would have found further comfort in seeing Nekayah lay beside me during the service. They saw Nekayah and me as one. I then wished I had taken her with me. Her lying beside me would have aided me in delivering a message of hope. Nekayah had briefly touched their lives, entered their sorrow and joined them in their journey toward healing.

Nekayah knows how to lick our tears, lay her head in our lap and somehow we know we are loved, and life will be okay.



One day when Nekayah and I were at the mall a boy in a wheel chair, a paraplegic, saw Nekayah across the court. He was obviously excited, 1) to see a dog, 2) to see a dog at the mall. Nekayah was wearing her service jacked (being a certified hearing impaired service dog) and when doing so would not interact. I could tell the boy wanted to interact with Nekayah. I thought, because Nekayah is also certified as a therapy dog, I can remove her jacket and let the boy enjoy Nekayah attention. I went to the mother and told her Nekayah is a therapy dog and if she wouldn’t mind I would take time with her son. She was thrilled that someone would give such attention to her handicapped child. Nekayah scooted gently up to his motorized chair, laid her head in his lap, and he petted and petted her with tears in his eyes. Nekayah very gently licked his hands and his cheek. He petted Nekayah in a very uncoordinated manner, but trained as she is, Nekayah never minded. Nekayah, like Jerry’s, Pooh, (A gorgeous black Great Dane)  brings joy into not only Linda’s and my life, but also the lives of others. I would encourage anyone to complete the TDI certification and let your dog bring joy to others as well.

Chronicles of Nekayah -NEKAYAH AND ROBERT


Nekayah makes several visits a week to those in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. Many of her visits are routine. People anticipate her arrival. Some residents know her schedule and wait near the entryway. Nekayah knows she is working and does not get excited, so I have no concern for her jumping or accidentally hurting a patient. When Nekayah approaches a sitting patient, whether the person is in a wheelchair or regular chair, she sits and gently scoots forward then lays her head in the persons lap. We really work together as a team in that she is allowed to process what is needed and looks to me to make sure all is well. As we have worked together we have come to fully trust each other.

This last week we visited a man who is unable to be in a regular bed. “Robert” who is about 45 years old, has to sleep on a floor mattress as he will climb over rails and hurt himself. He is unable to speak, very seldom interacts and does not participate in therapy. He just lays and eats. I have visited this facility for nearly a year and “Robert” has never responded to my visit. But this day was different, and neither the staff nor I know why. We asked “Robert” if he would like to see Nekayah. “Robert” did not respond. I sat on the floor near “Robert” and rubbed his shoulder. I would like to think that helped calm “Robert” and Nekayah picked up on “Robert’s” calmness. She moved over by me and without sniffing or exploring this figure she laid her body near “Robert”. “Robert” seemed to process this thing lying next to him. He reached out to explore Nekayah who is lying there without moving, even when he examined her head. “Robert” now more relaxed, smiled as though he felt positive about Nekayah being near. Very gently Nekayah reached to lick “Robert’s” cheek. She licked one time as if she was seeking permission to have contact. The staff person and I just waited to see what would happen next as “Robert” normally rejected contact. “Robert” laid there and looked directly into Nekayah’s face. It seemed they communicated in their own way. “Robert” moved his head ever so slightly toward Nekayah who responded by snuggling her head in his neck. In a jerking, uncoordinated movement “Robert” stroked her head and Nekayah continued licking “Robert’s” cheek. Nekayah understood that his “slaps” were really pets and responded affectionately. Nekayah knows only friendly hands. What happened next shocked the staff person. “Robert” made a thumbs-up gesture to the staff person then fell back into his unresponsive state. The staff person then made the comment that that was a very significant response and may reveal an in to whatever is locked inside of “Robert.”

I often wonder, does Nekayah or other therapy dogs know what they do? I can tell Nekayah senses a fulfillment in her therapy work. But does she have any idea the positive affect she has on a person? She gets a lot of treats, but she doesn’t seem to do what she does just for treats. I can’t even pride myself in her good training. She just does what she does, makes a difference, and goes on to whatever we do next. She is a true catalyst, changing her surroundings, but remaining the same herself.

Linda and I believe God has allowed us to have one of those one-in-a-million dogs. Nekayah is not only a proficient wonderful hearing-impaired service dog, but her reputation is growing as a gifted animal able to bring vestiges of healing to those who are emotionally impaired. She is truly a therapy dog.


You know, family is such an important part of one’s life. My heart goes out to those children and young people who do not have a sense of family. So much is absent from their lives. Going to sleep at night must be terribly lonely and empty. Many times I am reluctant to talk about the closeness of our family for fear I may elicit guilt or depression from the other person. I find it hard to talk abo…ut my children to someone whose children may be in prison, hates them, or never come home to visit. Those situations and lives are painful all around.
But I cannot escape the deep pride and fulfilling joy that comes from our four children. I am not the most wonderful father, but they are the most wonderful and caring children we could ever have. What is funny (in a fulfilling sense) is that when Linda and I talk about something we would now do different (and we do with our grandchildren) they most often don’t even remember it. What is not so fulfilling is that we cannot forget it. Many things they don’t remember still bothers, at times, even haunts us.
When I counsel and hear the sadness in the voices, and see the sadness in the eyes, my pathos goes deep. I often want to hold those parents, many times I weep with those parents. My place is to lead them beyond their pain to forgiveness if necessary and hope which is there for them.
The Christmas story is not only about the Christ child, but it is also about family, family gathered together around the Christ child. We gather around our tree, take the Bible and read Luke 2 (the Christmas story), pray together (children, wives & husband-in-law, our 12 grandchildren, and for the first this year, our great grandchild). Not only all of those, but about six dogs. You should see the row of stockings on our fireplace. But when you can sit and watch all of those that have come into the world through us, laughing, loving, sharing gifts and lives, one could not be more fulfilled in spite of life’s hardness. I tell God often, “I don’t know how we did it, how we got through all those years, or how our children got through all those years, but God you put things in us, and took things out of us, for our children’s benefit and well being.” It was us in partnership with God that molded our family.
It was a dark night through which the Bethlehem star shone through. We have had many dark nights when we could not make sense of life’s happenings, but there was always a light that shone through. Not in our timing, but His timing. Four of those stars are our children. Our lives are better because of them.
I hope your Christmas is around a tree experiencing family in your Christmas.