In the 13 years since she’s been an animal behavior specialist, Erika Proctor has fostered 387 animals—and she’s only kept three for herself. The founder of nonprofit organization Green Dogs Unleashed, Proctor realized how little is known about therapy dogs, so in 2007 she began establishing the Troy-based business to rescue special needs animals, rehabilitate them, and professionally train them to become therapy dogs for special needs humans. In 2013, it was official.
The mission, Proctor said, is to “improve the quality of life for individuals with special needs and veterans with PTSD, by conducting volunteer pet-facilitated therapy.”
The animals that aren’t suitable for the program, she adopts out or transfers elsewhere. All told, around 900 rescue dogs have passed through her doors since November of 2011—100 of those since January alone.
Most of those are success stories, but there are a few in particular that are close to her heart.
“Six years ago, I watched as a truck drove up and tossed a brick-sized white ball out the window and sped off,” she said. Proctor ran out to see what it was and found a Great Dane puppy lying in the driveway. Unresponsive to sound and squinty-eyed, the dog was the product of a “double merle” breed, which leads to both deafness and blindness.
“We were advised these dogs do not live full lives and can become vicious, and the most humane thing we could do was euthanize her,” Proctor said. “It was not going to happen.” Serendipity, as Proctor named her, is 6 years old now.
“Her world is dark and quiet, but filled with perfect love and acceptance. Something we, as human beings, could learn from.”