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YOU LUCKY DOG!

If you love a story with a happy ending, then here's a tale to warm your heart. In August, employees at Waterfront Health Care Center, an affiliate of Buffalo General Hospital, watched in horror as a puppy was tossed out of a van and then hit by a car on nearby Niagara Street.

Several employees ran out to help the female white Lab mix, which had suffered a fractured rear left leg. Administrator Larry Piselli, In-ServiceCoordinator Maureen Wagner and Certified Occupational Therapy Aide Barb Van Dusen quickly rolled a gurney outside, placed the dog on it and brought her into the facility.

Despite her injuries, the dog was very affectionate and immediately endeared herself to the gathering crowd. Fearing the SPCA would have to put the injured animal down, they decided to take her to Lewis Animal Clinic in Amherst. The veterinarian gave them a discount on the bill and three groups -- Adopt-A-Pet, Animal Birth Control and PALS -- later donated money to cover the costs.

Piselli then called the state Department of Health to explain the situation and inquire about keeping the dog. "They were very positive and agreed that it would be good to have the dog here as long as proper policies and procedures are followed," said Eve Hilcken, administrative assistant.

After recovering for two weeks at Ms. Wagner's house, the 6-month-old pup moved into her new home. The facility held a naming contest and aptly, "Lucky" came up the winner. Petsmart donated a 40-lb. bag of food, a collar and a leash, and a family member of one of the residents knitted an afghan for Lucky to sleep on.

Mrs. Hilcken said the response fromemployees, residents and their families has been "98 percent positive." For example, one resident who had been suffering fromdepression and rarely left his room now walks Lucky up and down the halls each day and plays fetch with her in the front lobby.

When Lucky visits residents in their rooms, she brings broad smiles and gets lots of affectionate petting in return. She loves to follow the nursing supervisors as they make their rounds, and often can be found greeting visitors and employees in the lobby.

"It's a perfect place for a dog because there is always someone here," Mrs. Hilcken said.

When it's time for a nap, Lucky often settles in on her blanket under the desks of Mrs. Hilcken and Mary Reese, director of human resources. Lucky is barred from all sanitary areas, such as the kitchen and laundry room, but otherwise has the run of the facility. There is also an enclosed courtyard so she can play outside.

Mrs. Hilcken said the Employee Appreciation Committee has been holding fund-raisers to pay for food, treats and toys, so there is no cost to residents or the facility.

"We recently had a 'Lucky Bake Sale' and raised about $70," she said. "She's a sweetie. Everybody loves Lucky."