A ruddy hound mix bounds toward me in the waiting area at Noble Dog Hotel in Hampton Station. In her joy to meet a new friend, Gertie, as she’s called, leaps excitedly on Jen Hanna, who is holding the pup’s leash. Leader of the pack, Hanna opened Noble Dog Hotel in 2017. She brings Gertie over, and the two-year-old trains her soulful brown eyes on me and licks my hand as I attempt to pet a moving target.

Gertie is one of three dogs recently adopted into the Canine Healing Project, Noble Dog’s nonprofit arm that Hanna established in 2018. Jen retrieved Gertie and two other dogs—Ginger, a fawn-colored 10-year-old who recently had puppies, and “Grandpa” Drew, a deaf senior cattle dog mix with a salt-and-pepper muzzle—from Greenville Animal Care in early September. As part of the program, they will live at Noble Dog and receive training in basic obedience and good canine manners so they can be matched with an appropriate family, and possibly become a therapy dog.

That was Hanna’s goal in establishing the program. A pro golfer in her former life, the Furman alum has been active in therapy work with her own dogs for ten years now—a cause that’s near and dear to her heart. “I knew I wanted to do a dog hotel,” she says, “but I also wanted to have an impact on the community through our training program.” For her, the Canine Healing Project fulfills that purpose.

To date, the program has rescued 39 dogs and found homes for all of them except the three currently in training. Hanna and her staff strive to match the right pup with the right family and encourage adopters to become certified in therapy work. Dogs in training stay at Noble Dog as long as they need to. The length of training depends on the individual dog. “It takes three weeks to a month just to find out who they really are,” Hanna says. “But when you pull a dog from the shelter and work with them and see them come out of their shell, that’s what’s rewarding—just knowing we can change these dogs’ lives.”

At the end of the day, the Canine Healing Project is a win-win: dogs get a new lease on life, adopters get a good dog, and, Hanna hopes, the community will be enriched by having more therapy dogs. “If you have a dog that can provide comfort or stress-relief to others, it’s great to share that,” she notes. It’s paws-up all around.

Illustration by Karen Schipper. To fill out an adoption application for dogs in the Canine Healing Project, go to caninehealingproject.org.