Yvonne Quinn had raised Packer from 7 weeks old to become a Seeing Eye dog. However, when he was sent back for his final training at 17 months old, Packer experienced gastrointestinal issues and could not complete his Seeing Eye education.
After Yvonne took Packer back home, she decided pet therapy would be a great “career change,” and that’s when she met Tricia Baker, co-founder of Attitudes in Reverse.
Tricia was their teacher and evaluator, and Packer passed his therapy dog training in April 2018. They immediately became an AIR Dogs Paws for Minds team.
“It sounded like something that I thought would be worthwhile,” recalled Yvonne. “There’s so much sadness and mental illness. If I can help in any way, I want to do it.”
Packer, a German Shepherd who just turned 3 years old in May, has the perfect temperament to perform therapy work, said Yvonne, He loves everyone and enjoys all types of visits from school programs and outdoor events to those for older residents at Artis Senior Living of Princeton Junction.
One of their most memorable visits was one of their most emotional. AIR therapy dogs were requested to offer support to families and friends after the death of a Hopewell Valley High School student.
“The dogs really helped the people, mostly the kids,” remembered Yvonne. “They just came over to the dogs and loved on them, and thanked us for coming.”
“It was heart-wrenching, but it made you glad that you were able to give some comfort in such a sad time,” she said.
When Packer and Yvonne aren’t on visits for AIR, they enjoy participating in classes for rally, agility, and going on other therapy visits.
“He’s so intelligent and enjoys learning and being active,” she said. “He’s a busy boy!”
Yvonne also enjoys bowling and golf and participates in leagues for both. She and her family are currently raising their 12th puppy, named Spencer, for The Seeing Eye. Packer is a great mentor for Spencer, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and they are great pals, said Yvonne.
Yvonne and her family settled in New Jersey from Warsaw, Poland 15 years ago. They had moved seven times in the past three decades for her husband’s work; having lived in Kentucky, Kansas City, Puerto Rico, Poland, and southern New Jersey.
Sadly for AIR, they are moving again in July. Yvonne, who was born and raised in Kentucky, is returning there as her husband promised they would when they first met 32 years ago.
We will deeply miss Yvonne and Packer, but we know they will keep busy in Kentucky.