Once upon a time there was a soft-coated Wheaten terrier puppy who knew she was born to be a lucky dog. With an Irish heritage and a nonshedding coat, she knew that when her new mom and dad came to pick her up, she would be even more lucky. And sure enough, Lucky soon learned that she was most happy when her human parents were happy with her behavior. In fact, they weren’t just her human parents. They were (and are) her teachers too.
Nancy Starewicz and her dog, Lucky, a Wheaten terrier, have visited with thousands of students, teaching them about good behavior. Contributed photo
Lucky’s human parents are Doug and Nancy Starewicz. Nancy is a retired school psychologist who has worked with students and families for more than 30 years. She attended Valparaiso University and Loyola University, earning her B.A. and M.Ed. degrees in educational psychology. In 1990, Nancy was named Outstanding School Psychologist in Indiana, where the couple lived while raising their family. Doug is also a retired educator and coach. They have three adult children and two grandchildren.
Since retiring from her full-time position in 2008, Nancy has done Lucky Lesson programs and written six books about Lucky. Lucky and Nancy have visited thousands of students, mainly in northwest Indiana, before beginning to spend their summers in the Alexandria lakes area. During their interactive programs, everyone hears about Lucky and sees her demonstrate her “good behaviors.”
Nancy is an Alexandria native who is grateful for the opportunity to be teaching her Lucky Lessons in the place she calls home. The couple lives in a family cottage on Lake Carlos with a rich history. Nancy’s great-grandfather, Raiter, was a butcher in Alexandria who purchased land by the Carlos-Darling bridge. He built a cottage for each of his children as they married and installed a gas pump and ice house for everyone’s convenience. The cottage that Nancy and Doug live in was built sometime before 1906 for Nancy’s grandfather, Dr. Leon Boyd, and his wife, Lytta Raiter Boyd. Nancy’s parents, John and Ruth (Bartz) Boyd, took ownership of it when she was very young. Beginning in 1957, the cottage was rented to the DeLay and Glanville families. It might be said that family values and kind behaviors began in those very cottage walls when it was originally built and continued with the history of the Raiter and Boyd families. Lucky is now lucky enough to be reinforcing those core values through the lessons she teaches as she visits schools, churches and adult groups.
It really wasn’t on Nancy’s radar to spend her retirement years doing what she and Lucky are now doing with their Lucky Lessons. It just happened because of one lucky dog! “At first I thought I might become a certified laughter leader, but God had other plans for us. Now, six books and many Lucky Lessons later, we are on another path including becoming Hospice volunteers here in Alexandria. It has been our privilege and pleasure to visit those who would like a pet visit.”
Nancy and Lucky have a schedule filled with fun, laughter and lessons with audiences of adults and children from preschool on up. They have visited classrooms, assisted living homes, a visually impaired adult group, the YMCA , Sunday school classes, church camps and even did a “comfort visit” to students who had lost a beloved teacher. The basic messages are those of patience, empathy, listening, trust, being thankful, and friendship.
Nancy emphasizes that Lucky doesn’t do tricks per se. Rather, she demonstrates lots of good behaviors that make her a pleasure to live with. “She’s the real teacher!” Nancy explained as her eyes glowed with enthusiasm. For example, Lucky is eager to “show her operation” by rolling on her back. She also spells her name, reads a word and does some math which encourages young students watching her. By enjoying all who pet her, she teaches that “hands are for helping, never hurting” because she believes the whole world has good hands and would never hurt her or each other. Lucky also responds to three hand signals to speak, roll over and sit. One of her most important lessons is about demonstrating patience as she balances treats on her nose and paws for (what may seem to be) endless minutes before being given the command that she can eat them.
Like a true Minnesota girl, Lucky loves to fish! She’s a sportswoman who “kisses” the fish Doug catches and releases out of Lake Carlos. “One thing is for sure,” laughed Nancy, “She is living life to the fullest. She bounces and paces back and forth on our dock hoping Doug catches a fish. She reminds us to appreciate all the little things just as we humans should do. She’s teaching us daily.”
Nancy’s books have universal messages for all ages. Each book focuses on a different life lesson and includes follow-up discussion questions. To contact Nancy about her programs or books call 219-805-1378 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. All books are signed and “pawtographed.”
We can all learn from Lucky Lessons:
1. Talk less, listen more.
2. Sit less, exercise more.
3. Complain less, be thankful more.
4. Eat junk less, eat healthy more.
5. Be selfish less, think of others more.
6. Hurry less, be patient more.
7. Guess less, study more.
8. Growl less, smile more.
9. Worry less, trust more.
10. Judge less, accept more.