One alumna’s retirement gift to herself is a gift to those in need

Joan Murray
Dr. Joan Murray
Photo credit: Dean Curtis

When I first met Harley, he jumped right into my lap. I was surprised at how fiercely this cuddly ball of fur was guarding his kennel at the animal shelter. He had so much spirit. When I heard he was scheduled to be euthanized the next day, I knew I had to take him. He became my retirement present to myself after leaving the military.

After Harley underwent a partial amputation for cancer, he had a hard time interacting with people. A friend suggested I take him to the K-9 Academy to rebuild his trust. Within 10 months, he was completely transformed.

I decided to tackle therapy training with Harley. Now, we have worked at the United Service Organizations, the Richland Care Center, and the Missouri Veterans Home. We combine my Walden education and Harley’s loving demeanor to spread joy to those in need.

When I heard Harley was nominated for the therapy dog category in the American Humane Hero Dog Awards, I couldn’t have been prouder. We have done more than 150 missions together and intend to do many more. I look forward to treasuring every day with my companion as we change the world together.

— As told to Kyra Molinaro

Dr. Joan Murray ’16 is a Doctor of Education (EdD) graduate who honorably served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army as a professional musician and has more than 10 years of teaching experience as a supervisor of K–12 and K–8 music programs. When she isn't going on therapy missions with Harley, she can be found teaching music at Phelps County R-III School in Edgar Springs, Missouri, or music history as an adjunct professor at Drury University’s St. Robert Annex campus. She has also recently been hired by Rolla (Missouri) Middle School as their music teacher for the 2018–19 school year, which she credits to completing her EdD.

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