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Puppy love keeps couple smiling in tough times

Dec 01 2012
Mike and Theresa Elves and basset hound Betty. 

Mike and Theresa Elves and basset hound Betty.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , Times Colonist

Betty the basset hound raises the spirits of hospital patients and residents of seniors homes whenever owner Mike Elves takes her for a visit.

The gentle Betty, born in a puppy mill in Alberta, is a rescue dog and the fifth basset for Theresa and Mike Elves.

When Mike's health allows, he takes Betty out as a Pacific Animal Therapy dog. She's affectionate, using her long nose to softly nudge the closest person for pats.

"People love her," Mike said. "She gets all kinds of attention."

Theresa bought Mike his first basset hound, a dog he had dreamed of owning since he saw them on television as a child. The walls of their living room are even lined with photos of bassets.

Mike stopped working in 1996 due to health problems. An injured knee initially took him out of the workforce, followed by the discovery of an enlarged heart. He was sent by air ambulance to Toronto for bypass surgery and now has a pacemaker and a replacement heart valve.

Despite his medical issues, he remains cheerful and determined to raise the spirits of others through visits with Betty.

It is difficult to manage on their income, Theresa said, adding the end of the month may find them counting on returning pop bottles for money.

"We don't like going to the food bank because we know there are lots more people who are worse off," said Theresa, who has problems with her lungs and uses an oxygen tank.

"If we ever come into money, we would love to help other people."

The Times Colonist Christmas Fund has been a part of their lives for many years.

Theresa was a single mother of two before meeting Mike, unable to work and without support from the children's father. The fund "meant everything," at Christmas, she said.

Today, the Elves say, it allows them to have a traditional holiday meal, something they would not be able to afford otherwise.

Although Theresa and Mike have serious medical problems and live on disability allowances, they consider themselves more fortunate than many.

"We have somewhere to live and a lot of people don't have that," Theresa said.

As Mike's father once told him: "Something you've got, that some people don't have, is happiness in the house you live in."

Added Theresa: "And a dog to love."

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•  Go online to timescolonist.com

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•  Mail or drop off in person at the Times Colonist, 2621 Douglas St. Victoria, B.C., V8W 2N4

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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