Community rallies behind local therapy dog

Mar 24, 2020

Over three years ago, UMass Dartmouth employee Christine Peter was still mourning the loss of her dog of 16 years. 

But during a visit to her mother at the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent home, Peter met someone who brought dogs in for the patients, and eventually decided to adopt one. 

That’s how Peter adopted Rocket, an eight-year-old white labrador, whom she immediately certified as a therapy dog.

“It was just love at first sight,” she said. “She truly is a comforting presence.”

Since then, Rocket has continued to visit Peter’s mother, and has also provided her services as a therapy dog to UMass Dartmouth students to pet away stress before a big exam or project. 

But earlier this month, Rocket was not feeling her usual self. At first she had to pee more frequently, something Peter thought was related to her older age. Then, she stopped eating, which is unusual for a dog of her breed to do unless they are seriously ill.

A recent vet visit revealed that Rocket had a urethral obstruction and was losing red blood cells and protein.

To help cover the costs of veterinary and possibly surgical care — especially as Peter anticipates more costs to come — Peter set up a GoFundMe page

Already, the fundraiser has raised more than $2,500 from 88 different donors.

“People have been very kind,” Peter said. “It’s wonderful to have the emotional support for such a wonderful emotional support dog.”

Among the donors include fellow UMass Dartmouth colleagues such as bioengineering professor Tracie Ferreira, who listed Rocket as one of her students this semester. 

Ferreira said that Rocket greets all of the students in her class, but respects lecture time.

Also providing support is chemistry professor Catherine Neto, who as one of Peter’s former lecturers let Peter bring Rocket to class so as to not leave her at home. 

According to Neto, Rocket would regularly join student meetings in search of pats. Peter jokes that the dog became such a fixture in her class that it was given the nickname “Lab lab” and “Rocket science.”

“She’s really the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet,” Neto said. “No dog deserves this.”