Eight-year-old Gypsys life began to spin out of control with a divorce.
A young couple adopted her as a pup, but when they separated, neither wanted custody of the baby.
Then came the kindly man in Stanly County who agreed to take Gypsy, but kicked her out of the house for constantly jumping on his young daughter and pregnant wife.
Gypsy was tethered in the mans backyard when Louise Martin of Concord first spotted a tumbleweed of gray fur in an enclosed area. Gypsy is a keeshond, a breed that tends to look like a big gray puff ball, thanks to a plush two-layer coat, topped by a bushy ruff on the back of the neck.
Only later did Martin learn the dog had heartworms, infected feet and a lot of feces matted in that fur.
It was love at first sight, recalls Martin, 69, a former nurse. They were trying to get rid of her and I knew I wanted her immediately, so I ran across the yard and fell and she jumped on me and was licking me. She knew I had come to rescue her.
And so began a new life in Concord, with the kind of twist only a rescued dog could truly appreciate.
The pet it seemed nobody wanted is now doted on in the extreme as a certified therapy dog, specially trained to bring moments of compassion to maternity ward waiting rooms, hospice centers and senior day cares.
Gypsy declined comment for this story.
However, its clear she has become something of a doggie rock star, with fans jostling to rub, pat and scratch whatever part they can reach through the crowds.
Her tours include Carolinas Medical Center Northeast, the Coltrane L.I.F.E Center in Concord and Hospice & Palliative Care of Cabarrus County.
In the latter case, Gypsy visits a home devoted to people who have two months or less to live.
The result is at times magical, said Theresa Pitner of Hospice and Palliative Care. She says dogs like Gypsy have a way of making gravely ill people remember and forget at the same time.
Ive seen a patient who hasnt spoken in awhile lift their hand a little bit for the first time to have the dog come to that hand. Ive seen relaxation on the faces. And Ive seen the heads of family members lowered in sadness suddenly come up when a dog enters the room, said Pitner. For a few minutes, there is joy.
Its a job for which Gypsy received special training, including Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International certifications.
Martin actually has two keeshonds puttering around her house, but the other, Izzy, is not a bringer of joy. If anything, shes Gypsys evil twin, Martin said, prone to antics that include walking around the kitchen on hind legs to grab sandwiches and muffins off the counter.
Thats not the kind of personality you want in a hospital, Martin said.
Dog therapy is a volunteer job that Martin had never considered before meeting Gypsy.
In fact, the idea came to Martin after her husband, Bill, spent 88 days in the hospital. The couple, who have a grown daughter, married in 1970. For a time it looked like Louise was going to lose him.
Bill eventually recovered, but not before her life went into a tailspin.
It was then Martin learned the magic of a dog, not for Bills recovery, but for her own personal turmoil.
I tell people I rescued Gypsy, but she really rescued me. I was depressed because Id been told my husband wasnt coming home. Gypsy gave me a purpose in life, a passion.
So now, Gypsy gets anything she wants, including a leather chair in the den and permission to eat graham crackers in Martins bed at night.
Then Gypsy slips off to the bathroom, to snooze with her belly against the cool floor tiles. And she dreams whatever it is dogs dream about when theyre loved and dont have a care in the world.