Star of the Story: Guinness
Pet Parent: Foster
Home State: Tennessee
Hi, I’m Guinness! And yep, that’s me! Nothing makes me happier than meeting new friends and making people smile. But you might be wondering how I got this cool job...
Adopted off the streets of Istanbul, Turkey in March 2017 through the great work of Adopt a Golden Knoxville (AGK), a beautiful golden retriever now named Guinness came to call Knoxville home. His dog dad, Foster, and family were thrilled to welcome him into their loving home. Weighing only 40 pounds when he landed in Knoxville, his family believes he spent his first two years of life as a starving street dog in Istanbul before finding his furever home. They quickly joined the Link family to ensure they could keep track of Guinness’s well-being and have peace of mind that he’s always safe.
Through the AGK organization, Guinness underwent a number of tests in Turkey to ensure he wasn’t carrying any diseases and was healthy enough to make the flight to the USA. Guinness boarded a Turkish Air flight along with 24 other Goldens who were also rescued from Istanbul and made the 5,722-mile, 14-hour flight to the states. He even has his own passport with photos and medical records!
Foster recalls meeting Guinness for the first time just days after he landed in America and how the family instantly fell in love. Foster says, “Guinness was very skittish and, to say the least, WILD! We took him home and began settling into what would be our new normal and showing Guinness what stability felt like. Guinness was an angel from the start. Well, maybe a little destructive with shoes, hats and socks, but that’s to be expected.”
While Foster and Guinness were working with a trainer, she suggested Guinness would be a great candidate for a therapy dog. Guinness passed all the tests with flying colors and became an AKC certified advanced therapy dog. He is also part of the HABIT program, which stands for Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee. HABIT sponsor programs that foster pet visitation to nursing homes, assisted-living residences, retirement centers, mental health centers, residences for children with special needs, rehabilitation facilities, hospital settings, and other facilities.
When Guinness was ready for therapy visits, Foster requested to start at the University of Tennessee Cancer Institute as his wife is a cancer survivor, and the institute is near and dear to their family’s hearts. Guinness was immediately assigned to the program and began visiting one day a week for two hours at a time seeing cancer patients and hospital staff. Needless to say - he was, and still is, a huge hit!
As word got around about the new charmer visiting the cancer institute, Guinness was asked to branch out to other areas of the medical center, and he was eager to volunteer! Since that first visit in September of 2018, Guinness and his dedicated dog dad, Foster, are a full time AKC Therapy Dog team! They now visit every week with patients and staff at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, the UT Cancer institute, the Trauma Recovery Floor at UT Medical Center, Knox County 911 Emergency Dispatch Center, and the Office of Medical Examiner of Knox County - just to name a few. They also read with 4th graders each week at Fountain City Elementary School as part of the Ruff Reader Program. In just two years, Guinness and Foster have amassed over 270 visits and a total of almost 600 volunteer hours!
To say the least, Guinness is a rock star. Everyone loves him and the squeals of delight from children, staff and family when they see him fill his dog dad’s heart with delight! As a retiree, Foster is now dedicated to being Guinness’s full-time chauffer. And by the way, our pal Guinness now weighs in at a healthy 86 pounds, loves his cabin and boat at the lake and will swim and play for days – when he’s not hard at work sharing love and joy, of course.