Meramec tutor gives back by honoring ‘Petey’

Posted on 08 October 2014 by admin

Proceeds from her published book helps current and former Meramec students in need

Christine Salamone pets her service dog Petey in 2010 at the Meramec campus. Salamone has written a book about service dogs as a tribute to Petey.

Christine Salamone pets her service dog Petey in 2010 at the Meramec campus. Salamone has written a book about service dogs as a tribute to Petey.

By: DALILA KAHVEDZIC
Asst. Art & Life Editor

Long-time tutor and mentor at STLCC-Meramec Christine Salamone has found a way to honor her service dog and give back to the community at the same time. Salamone recently published the book, “It’s Not So Ruff Being a Working Dog,” with proceeds going to those in need.

Salamone has suffered from a neuromuscular disease that causes her “indescribable pain,” she said, but the pain did not stop her from continuing her education, a journey she credits to her dog Petey.

“The sky’s the limit. I’ve always told my kids that. The sky is the limit on what you could do and what you could be. You just have to reach for it,” Salamone said.

As a director of education with support dogs, Salamone began her career in education by teaching the public about dogs who help others. “Five years after that, I got sick,” she said.

Salamone’s husband had been breeding German Shepherds for a few years and his oldest dog was a therapy dog in his office.

“We had her granddaughter [dog], Serena, so with her we were going to try one more time to see if he could breed her; she was seven years old” Salamone said.

Four weeks later, Salamone arrived home with her husband to find Serena making deep, heavy noises.

“We didn’t even say more than six words to each other, we knew we were in need of emergency care. We grabbed a cell phone, we grabbed a telephone book, we grabbed a leash, a collar and we got in the car. We called the emergency clinic saying we thought that she was torsioning and pregnant but we weren’t sure,” Salamone said.

After waiting approximately 45 minutes, Salamone and her husband were called into the room.

“They put the x-ray up on the screen and we saw that her stomach was a basketball; it was huge, and she had torsion,” Salamone said.

A decision was to be made for surgery or no surgery.

“We went home and I remember playing cards waiting for a phone call. The phone rang five after 12 and they confirmed she was pregnant. We didn’t know what to do. We wanted to keep the babies, so they went ahead with surgery,” Salamone said.

Serena recuperated quickly.

“Two days later we took her out of the hospital to a specialist in Chesterfield to get a Sonogram done,” Salamone said.The sonogram showed three puppies.

“We only had about four weeks left until the puppies were due so I had four vets on call in St. Louis. So she started to go into labor and she tried, but to make it long story short, we ended up doing a c-section at 5 o’clock in the morning. We had three puppies, and one puppy was Petey,” Salamone said.

Salamone said she started training Petey right away and at two years old, the service dog began attending school with her at Meramec.

“One time I remember going into the library and there was a bookcase, and so Petey was pulling me with the wheelchair and all of a sudden a guy screams in the library and you can see he’s getting on a chair and I’m like, dude! Dude! You’re scaring my dog more than he just scared you,” Salamone said.

She took the opportunity to educate the student about how Petey was at Meramec to work for her and those in need, she said. Petey took the opportunity when Salamone noticed a student struggling mentally at school.

“The most amazing thing happened,” she said. “He left my side and got in this person’s lap. This person was in a fetal position sitting on a bench and he grabbed Petey by his neck and was sobbing into him.”

The experience was eye opening for Salamone, she said.

“I kind of knew then that Petey didn’t just have ownership for me, but that he had this thing about other people and helping them,” she said.

After a few years, Petey’s age  became a concern for Salamone, she said. “I knew Petey was getting old and I knew I had to do something. We knew we were going to have to replace him,” Salamone said.

Instead, Salamone acquired an additional dog to work with Petey, Magic, named after the then Meramec Magic athletic teams, joined Petey at Meramec with Salamone.

“Petey ended up not only being a service dog, but Petey was a teacher. And it was amazing,” Salamone said.

Magic, though, developed a neurological disorder and was put down a few months later. Petey continued to service Salamone.

“I did my internships with hospice agencies and Petey was there for people. We would go to nursing homes and I would let some of those people walk with him beside them and act as if they were his dog to kind of forget about things. And Petey would make some differences. Petey knew when people were sad,” Salamone said.

Petey also made an impact on the students at Meramec, she said.

“It was graduation time and I decided to make Petey a cap and gown; I figured he deserved it. They gave you a card to write your name on and at the end of my name I wrote ‘and Petey’ on there. So when they announced my name, they announced ‘Christine R. Salamone and Petey” Salamone said.

She credits Petey with her academic success.

“If it wouldn’t have been for Petey I wouldn’t have made it there. I wouldn’t have been able to go every day and I wouldn’t have been able to have the endurance,” Salamone said.

After losing Petey’s mother to nasal cancer, Petey also died suddenly when he was 11 and a half years old of torsion.

Salamone said she did not want Petey’s legacy to die too, which prompted her book project.  She gathered photos she had taken in a digital photography class of Petey and the book idea evolved, she said.

“So here I was with all these pictures. I kind of knew what I was going to write the book about,” Salamone said.

A few pieces were missing, though, that Salamone said finally came together when she was reunited with a former student and athlete at Meramec whose daughter was suffering from an inoperable brain stem tumor.

“I knew that the mom was going to have to be by her side.She’s a single mom, and I just knew something needed to be done to help them and to financially see what I could do for them. I sat down and I wrote this story,” Salamone said. “It was the spark.”

Since the book published, Salamone has raised over $600 for the former student and her child.

“They have been my inspiration and my forward push the whole time,” Salamone said.

The tribute to Petey offers an inside look at the life of a service dog, said Salamone.

“My dog can be shared with people and they can laugh and they can smile but then they can see at the last page that service dogs are not mistreated. He’s been a helper, a teacher; he’s been a best friend. He’s been a super dog,” Salamone said.

The tribute to Petey has also helped Salamone cope with her disease and daily pain, she said.

“A lot of people say this is the happiest I’ve been and I say to people, this is the closest thing to being cured. The feeling that I have right now to make a difference, you know, it’s like the feeling I would have If I were cured. It’s incredible,” Salamone said.

Anyone interested in ordering a book, can email Salamone at itsnotsoruff@aol.com.

 

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