“Dog.”I heard it as a gentle whisper. It was at The Well.

I landed here September 2006 feeling a pull to get away from society.

I was searching for my purpose. My job felt lifeless and my passions in question.

A trip to the Well of Mercy was an unexpected adventure. I had not been to a remote place where solitude and quiet were the goal.

Nestled in Harmony, North Carolina, my sister and I drove the country roads down a hill to this heart-shaped piece of land.

Three large homes were set among the forest. We were welcomed at The Well house and guided to our rooms.  Run by Catholic nuns, this place had so much to offer – spiritual direction, a chapel, walking paths, communal meals, and a labyrinth.

I took advantage of it all.

My sister and I separated and got lost for a while. It wasn’t easy to be quiet and unplug. We would meet up from time to time and take a walk together.

Then I found the labyrinth. This large round maze built by cement on top of a small hill set itself apart from The Well. I knew about it because we had the very same meditation tool at my workplace – a cancer center in Orlando. But I never used it.

Whenever I would console my friend and chaplain at work, she’d always say, “Go walk the labyrinth”.
I traveled over 500 miles and finally did.

As I walked this windy road to its center, I focused on one question. “God, what is it you are calling me to do?”

“Dog.”

That night in prayer at church service, a dog came in and sat at my feet.

When I returned home and back to work, my new boss held a meeting and asked the question, “What did our cancer center need”? The answer was unanimous. Pet therapy. Guess who was asked to lead this project?

What started with 3 dogs – Susie, Conrad, and Spencer became a thriving program with over 60 teams and a sponsorship thru PetSmart Corporation.

PetSmart Paws For Hope was prayed over for its success by visionaries and leaders, Theresa and Amy, who took this program to the next level.

Serving Orlando Health hospitals, the pet therapy program has been instrumental in the emotional wellbeing of patients and staff alike. A simple gesture coming from a dog can make the difference in one person’s day.

It’s all because of God’s gentle whisper, “Dog.”

I write to remember and honor Amy, who was taken to be with the Lord, unexpectedly on January 7, 2017.

Amy, your light was true and beautiful and your grace and humility were a model act. Thank you for your humble service to all of us at Orlando Health. Your legacy lives on. We love and miss you.

 

Nicole Santapola

About Nicole Santapola

Nicole Santapola began her relationship with Christ after 30 years of religion being a mainstay in her upbringing. Experiencing a divorce, Nicole found herself a single woman leaning on God's promises and learning both His faithfulness and love. She calls Discovery Church home. She began attending in 2002 and through bible studies, women's events, and restoration counseling, she was baptized at East Campus in 2006. Nicole has a passion to share God's love and encouragement to others particularly in the area of health and wellness. She has followed holistic health and nutrition and through education and cooking classes, she teaches and shares this with others. She loves to cook and bake mostly plant-based dishes in her home and visit local vegetarian establishments. Her walk began with Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind".

2 Comments

  • Linda Carroll says:

    My name is Linda Carroll. My husband and I have just started Discovery Church and like you, we are trying to find our place. I just joined this group to get connected. This is my first story to read. Very encouraging!! God bless you for sharing!!

    • Nicole Santapola says:

      Welcome Linda! I pray you hear God’s will and direction and also pray you find Discovery your home. I have been an attendee since the early 2000’s and I love how it has grown me. Thank you for your encouraging words! God bless you too.

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