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A beautiful golden retriever in the distinctive red cape trotted around the ring at the Golden Retriever Club of America National Specialty. Cameras flashed as Leada, eyes focused on her owner, Linda Barr, sat for a photo op. Leada is a born showgirl – hence her name, Leada.

“Leada thinks a lot of herself,” Linda said with a laugh. “She has an attitude!”

Leada is so outgoing that it usually takes folks a few minutes to notice that she can’t use her left front leg. Although she isn’t able to participate in the same competitions her dog sister Zanzi does, Leada’s life has taken her in a very different direction.

Leada was the last born in a litter of twelve puppies, and needed to be resuscitated by her breeder. For some unknown reason, shortly after her birth, Leada’s left leg turned bright red, then contracted. Despite this early challenge, Leada’s take charge personality and zest for life soon became apparent, and her breeder looked for just the right person to adopt this special pup. Linda fit the bill, and Leada found a new home.

Linda is a passionate golden retriever owner and wanted to contribute to improving the health of the dogs she loves. She enrolled Leada, Hero Dog #1750, in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study in order to contribute to advancing knowledge of diseases affecting the breed.

As a nurse, Linda understood how important therapy dogs were for many people suffering from illnesses. Linda has been a strong advocate of the use of therapy dogs, and she quickly noted that Leada seemed to have a special love for people who were hurt or suffering. She would constantly seek out the patients who needed extra comfort.

“Leada will pat people with her front leg ‘flipper’,” Linda said. “She has this sense of compassion I’ve never seen before in a dog.”

Linda recalls one woman with cancer who was enduring chemotherapy. She had lost her hair, had lost weight, and was weak and sick. “Leada went right to her. Here was a beautiful dog who also had a physical abnormality that the woman could relate to. As we finished our visit, the woman thanked me for bringing Leada to her; she said Leada made her feel better about herself.”

Linda knows that Leada’s special purpose in life is to bring comfort and hope to people who are sad or ill. Her uncanny knack for nosing out a person in need is a special gift that Linda rejoices in every day.

“Leada is the most gifted therapy dog I’ve ever had,” said Linda. “Her presence absorbs anxiety and calms people. She can look people in the eye and say ‘I love you’.”