When Aurora librarian Janie Clark of Colorado sent Pesto off to puppy college for guide dogs last fall, she was all smiles and tears. The Labrador Retriever who had been at her side since he was 12-weeks old had won the hearts of employees and patrons at Aurora Central Library during his stay, and especially the heart of a young boy named Javary.
Javary’s mother Kimistry Howard uses the Aurora library daily to home school her two sons — Javaé, a 5-year-old with autism and Javary, a 7-year-old who weighs little more than 30 pounds due to a rare health condition that causes growth defects and extremely flexible joints.
From the moment Javary and Javaé met Pesto the connection between the three was surreal. "You would think Pesto had always been in their life," said Kimstry. "This was the first time they met and you couldn’t tell."
As time went on Pesto gave Javary a reason to step out of his wheelchair and Javae a reason to speak. "Javaé barely spoke," Kimistry says. "Pesto gave him so much to talk about." And Javary navigates around the library, half walking, half crawling, snuggling up to Pesto whenever he got the chance. "He really shouldn’t be able to walk right now, but with Pesto as an inspiration, he doesn’t want to stay in a chair," Kimistry said.
"He’s like a BFF (best friend forever) to me. We have so much fun together. We like to cuddle together," said Javary, grinning.
But Pesto had been prepared and trained by Clark to become a guide dog. She had even spearheaded city legislation that allows guide dogs in training to accompany city employees to work. That’s why he had become a regular at the library. So when it came time for Pesto to head off to the 'astronaut school' of dogs, it was a tear-filled farewell for the Howards and for Clark.
At the time Clark observed: "He will either come home because he'll decide that's just not for him, or I'll fly out to his graduation and present him to his blind partner."
At the college Pesto excelled in all of the courses — from urban challenges and intelligent disobedience to traffic training and city work. Then in January, after two months of schooling, it came time to take the final exam, and the 18-month old canine had a sudden change of heart, and failed to graduate. "I was shocked," Clark said. "It was at the very end and it's very rare that that happens. I personally think he missed the boys," Clark said.
When she found out that Pesto was coming back to Aurora, she immediately phoned Kimistry. Clark and Kimstry had made a deal before Pesto left that if the dog didn't graduate from guide-dog school, he'd go on to live with the Howards.
Kimistry thought it was a miracle come true. The boys had no idea Pesto was going to be theirs until January 31 when they were at the library as usual. Pesto ran up to an unsuspecting Javary. It took a minute for Javary to recognize the dog. A huge smile crossed his face as he immediately turned to his mom and asked, "Is this Pesto?"
Pesto happily sniffed every corner of familiar territory as Javary giggled and crawled over to sit in Clark's lap. She told him Pesto would be going to live with him. Javary gasped and covered his face with his hands as he tried to contain his tears. "Wow," said Javary. He summed up his emotions simply, he was "really, really happy." Said Kimstry: "What he brings to us, we can never give it back to him."
Clark doesn't plan to see Pesto for about a month. "I want him to know he lives with them and I don't want to confuse him," she said. "They will bond and then he can come and visit." Adds Clark: "Magical things happen in the library every day. This is one of them." In the case of the Howard family and Pesto, they would wholeheartedly agree.
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