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Murphy takes his retirement

by Heidi Alder

Recently, residents have been asking, “Where’s Murphy?”

Murphy has officially retired from his role as a therapeutic dog in Carson Valley skilled nursing homes.

Owner Mary Honda, of Gardnerville, said Murphy was found as a puppy by her son Garret on his way home from school 12 years ago.

Honda’s best bet is that Murphy is a mix of Great Dane, Akita, Labrador and “some kind of herding dog.”

He has grown to be a very large dog, Honda said.

“He never has an unkind or nasty word to say to anyone,” Honda said, describing Murphy’s wonderful personality.

Knowing he would be a large dog, Honda began to socialize Murphy from a very young age.

She used to take Murphy to the day-care center, Under the Magic Pine Tree, as well as to public schools and the Ranchos Volunteer Fire Department.

“When I was with the fire department, I came home from a stressful call and would take the stress out on the dog,” Honda said, explaining times she would just sit and pet Murphy, telling him everything that had happened – things she couldn’t tell her two children.

“It does lower blood pressure,” she laughed.

Honda was a volunteer firefighter with the Ranchos station for 10 years.

Murphy has had his share of training. He has been through the 4-H Club for obedience with Garret, and is certified as a pet therapy dog through Therapy Dogs Inc., along with Honda’s other dog CanDo.

Murphy is also tested at least once a year as a Canine Good Citizen, and has been through guide-obedience classes, Honda said.

Besides official training, Honda constantly exposed Murphy to real-life crowd training, like the Nevada Day Parade or dog-friendly Carson City Mall.

Prior to retiring, Murphy visited skilled nursing homes and the former Cottonwood Care Center for more than six years, purely on a volunteer basis, Honda said.

“We would go into skilled nursing homes and let people pet the dog,” Honda said. “They would talk, tell stories, laugh and cry.”

Honda has many fond memories of touching people’s lives through their interaction with Murphy.

“I’ve never seen a dog read people the way he does,” Honda said.

Honda described one incident where a woman with Alzheimer’s disease had been in a comatose state and hadn’t moved a muscle on her own for six months.

“Murphy walked up to her and lined himself up next to her wheelchair,” Honda said. “The woman moved her hand down and tried to pet him and tried to talk.”

Another instance involved an autistic child who only spoke single-word sentences.

“Once we came and Murphy went to him and the boy said, ‘I brush Murphy.’ Three words in a row, and he smiled,” Honda said. “It’s little things like that.”

Murphy has always been good with people.

“He just loves people, especially kids and old folks,” Honda said.

When Honda took Murphy into places like Carson Valley Residential Care Center, it was “not just for residents, but for staff as well.”

In a high stress job like that, Honda feels that it is just as important for the staff to have a chance to break the stress level by petting Murphy, as it is for the residents.

Murphy’s retiring because he hurt his shoulder, and is not able to easily get in and out of Honda’s truck, and ride comfortably, she said.

“For a dog his age, he’s still in good shape, mentally and physically,” Honda said. “He’s 12 going on 10.”

But Murphy is officially retired and will stay at home. Honda’s 4-year-old Australian Shepherd CanDo will take over for Murphy.

“CanDo has a good talent for it. He works differently, but he does just as good a job,” Honda said.

But Murphy still made an impact.

“He puts smiles on people’s faces and hope in their hearts,” Honda said.