By Juliana Brisco June 6, 2022
On April 18, with six months of preparation behind him, Massapequa resident Bob Goldfarb began his 26-mile journey in the Boston Marathon running for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in honor of his wife and sister-in-law. As he ran each mile, Bob proudly displayed his shirt, which showcased 160 names memorializing individuals who have been affected by cancer. Making his way to the halfway mark, Bob began to feel the fatigue settle in. He looked toward the crowd and recognized a familiar logo on a yellow vest worn by a small, black puppy in the distance. Bob ran over excitedly and asked the woman holding her leash, “Which puppy is this?” To which she replied, “Bob, this is Pamela!”
Pamela is a 9-month-old black Labrador and Golden Retriever puppy currently being raised by her puppy raiser, Stacy Luoma, for an organization called Canine Companions, a national organization that trains service dogs for adults, children and veterans with disabilities.
Bob discovered Canine Companions with his wife Linda before she passed away seven years ago. Linda was an advocate for a variety of animal organizations and Bob wanted to do something special in her memory. He decided to sponsor a puppy for Canine Companions and named her Linda, in honor of his late wife. Since then, Bob has raised three puppies of his own, and sponsored eight puppies, including Pamela, who is named after his friend, Pam. Pamela will live with Stacy for 18 months before heading to professional training, where she will learn practical skills, such as how to pick up dropped objects and provide increased independence for a person with disabilities.
Stacy began her puppy raising journey in 2001 while living in Salt Lake City, Utah. After meeting many graduates and puppy raisers through her local chapter, Stacy continued the tradition of raising puppies with her family.
“It was really great to see the impact that Canine Companions’ dogs have on their recipients,” said Stacy about meeting graduates through the Canine Companions community.
Pamela is the fourth dog that Stacy has raised, and the second dog that the Luomas have raised as a family.
“Pamela is not afraid of anything. She has been very confident about new surfaces, sounds, and different experiences,” said Stacy.
Pamela is not only serious about her work as a service dog, but she can be affectionate as well. “She completely melts when you hold or snuggle her,” Stacy described.
“She has a lot of power and enthusiasm to learn and work and figure things out, which is fun to train and work with.”
As a service dog, Pamela will need to have various experiences in order to be comfortable attending public places with her future graduate. Stacy’s 11-year-old daughter, Senja, is currently conducting a project for school all about “dog heroes,” highlighting how Pamela will be a hero one day. Stacy noticed that Bob was running in the Boston Marathon and thought that attending the marathon would not only allow Bob to meet Pamela but would also provide another opportunity for Pamela to demonstrate how she can be a hero for Senja’s project.
The weekend before the race, Senja made signs to cheer on Bob, including a picture of the Canine Companions logo. As the day of the race arrived, the Luomas drove almost an hour and a half and patiently waited for Bob. An avid runner herself, Stacy used to run with the Somerville Road Runners running club while living in Boston. As she noticed some of her friends from the group near her, she yelled excitedly, “Everyone cheer for Bob!” hoping that he would notice all of the support that surrounded him.
“I had no idea she was going to be there. Once I realized who it was, it was a total surprise,” Bob described. “They came at a good point because it was getting tough. [Pamela] really motivated me. It was so inspiring to see her.” With a little extra encouragement from Pamela, Bob finished the race with a total time of six hours and 36 minutes, an incredible achievement.
For more information about puppy raising or applying for a service dog with Canine Companions, visit their website at www.canine.org.
Juliana Brisco has a Master’s degree from Hofstra University, and recently completed her Associates degree in Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship from SUNY Adirondack. She’s a 2016 graduate of Canine Companions® with much-loved service dog Rowdy.