"Paws & Hearts"Animal Assisted Therapy


Our founder, Lucky Waxman,
passed away June 28, 2011.

It has now been 11 years since "Lucky" passed away. Not a single minute of the day goes by that he isn't missed or thought of by his Dad, Richard. Never has a dog left a legacy behind like "Lucky".

"I told you that you'd never be forgotton, Lucky, and trust me, you aren't. Every so often someone will still say to me, 'Aren't you Lucky's father?' and I'll just grin from ear to ear!"

What a Halloween Party this was! Carol's family used this picture as a Christmas card that year!

"Can I just play hide-n-seek down here?"

One of "Lucky's" favorite patients at Valencia Palms.

"Lucky" and the patient pose for the camera.

"Lucky's" favorite spot was in a patient's lap.

"Just hold me so I don't slip down between your legs."

Barbara waited every week to have "Lucky" on her bed.

James and "Lucky" truly had a special connection. "Lucky" would kiss James all over, and James loved the visits!

"Lucky" and Elano always spent a lot of time visiting Valencia Palms.

"Lucky", Dad and a patient at California Nursing and Rehabilitation.

"Lucky" in the volunteer office at Eisenhower Medical Center with Donnie, Halloween 2003.

Dear Edith..she was the one who taught "Lucky" that trick of taking a cookie from her mouth. These two were great pals!

Lets both smile for the camera!

"Could I make myself anymore comfortable?"

"Lucky" always loved a tray or a wheelchair so he could get really close to the patients.

"I'll play with all of you!" Martha's Village Kitchen.

"Lucky" and Dad one Halloween at Eisenhower Medical Center, 2003

"I'll just let this woman pet me for as long as she wants."

Uncle Phillip worked with "Lucky" a lot in the first years.

"Lucky" and Uncle Phillip at our very first fund raiser at Ruby's Diner, Palm Springs.

Founder "Lucky" Waxman

The End of an Era at "Paws & Hearts"

Richard Waxman, Executive Director "Paws & Hearts" and Dad

On July 4, 1998 I was looking at a condo and this little white poodle mix jumped right up into my arms. No collar, full of fleas and ticks, it was apparent he'd been abandoned. He saw the word sucker engraved on my forehead and home we went.

Didn't take long before I named him Lucky, because I thought I was very lucky that he found me. In Yiddish we have a word, 'buschert' and it means, meant-to-be, and if ever two lives were meant to collide it was Lucky's and mine. For the next twelve years, Lucky was at my side, actually up in my right arm as we built "Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy. Lucky was the founder, I was just the executive director.

Lucky was still a puppy when we were invited to Valencia Palms Nursing Home in Indio. Lucky turned out to be marvelous on the beds with the patients and the Desert Sun sent a writer and photographer on our next visit, and when the story and photograph ran in the paper, our journey together began!

Potential volunteers read about Lucky's visits and they wanted to take their dogs on visits and what I thought would become a hobby, quickly became a full-time career. Lucky and I began making presentations to the Activities Directors at local nursing homes about a new program, temperament tests were conducted, and Lucky's visits became training visits for the new volunteers.

Very quickly an office in Palm Desert opened, a board of directors was assembled, and Lucky and I began making presentations at local rotaries and service clubs. Gino Lamont from KMIR 6 had us on his morning show a dozen times that first year, and the response from potential volunteers, donors and facilities was overwhelming. We were on our way, and the next decade of my life flew by in a heart-beat!

We were asked to visit the Oncology floor on Wednesday afternoons at Eisenhower Medical Center and a couple of years into it, we began visiting 3 times per week so that all the floors were covered. My second dog, "Scruffy" came along, and after some intense training by his older brother, he began going on visits with us, and the two of them worked like a well-oiled machine, Lucky always the star, and Scruffy a very happy Ethel Mertz, the second banana.

In the Spring of 2011 Lucky developed a cough that just would not go away. Many trips to the vet, many medications later, Lucky passed away very suddenly June 28th from a tumor on his liver that ruptured.

I can't remember a time when Lucky wasn't under my arm at Eisenhower. We'd enter a patient's room and I'd say, "Lucky and Scruffy are here to visit. Would you like them on your bed?" And Lucky would lay across the patient's chest and Scruffy would snuggle in along-side their leg. I never thought this would ever change, but sadly it has. Scruffy has become Numero Uno now at Eisenhower and he does his older brother proud visiting with the patients and making them feel better. Not a visit goes by that someone doesn't ask, "Where is the little white dog?" and as much as that hurts, just knowing that Lucky is missed is thanks enough for the memories he made over 9 years, and an estimated 32,000 individual room visits.

To watch a video of Lucky and Scruffy at work, and to see what your dog could do as a Canine Ambassador please click below.

Rest in peace Luck,
your work and your legacy will never be forgotten!

Click Here to watch the documentary

Our 2015 Canine Ambassadors Video

Video produced by Benny Wu, with much appreciation

After reading an article on "Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy in The Desert Sun from June 28, 2013, Barbara King sent this lovely note to reminisce about a visit from Lucky and Scruffy, that took place a few years ago at Eisenhower Medical Center.

After the news of Lucky's passing emails began arriving. If you can believe it, these are just a sampling of what people had to say about him...

Hi Richard,

Every time I touch anything Paws & Hearts related, I think of Lucky - even if I catch a glimpse of the USB stick I use to copy the database back and forth to your office. When I visit the office, I see all the pictures of Lucky and I wonder how you can stand it. He was such a special little dog - with a heart bigger than many humans I've met.

I heard a young woman once ask a priest if her dog would be in heaven with her. His answer was that if when she arrived in heaven, the only thing that kept her from experiencing paradise was missing her dog, then, yes, the dog would be in heaven with her. Richard, Lucky is in heaven right now. I hope it's many years before the two of you are reunited, but he will be there ready to greet you (and show you around the place). He's a little doggie angel and will watch over you for the rest of your days.

Take care,

Dear Richard,

My heart goes out to you and Scruffy. Lucky was the best dog ever. I know you will both miss him. The piece in the paper was so special. Lucky is in heaven with all my dogs and they are having the best time running and and playing. I know that it is not the same as having him with you and Scruffy, however he is very busy watching over you.


I hereby propose that the 2011 annual "Dog Walk" be dedicated to "Lucky" Waxman...

Hi Richard,

I just got back from my trip to Mexico and I am at a total loss for words on your recent loss. My heart goes out to you and may Lucky rest in peace and no one will ever forget Lucky. Much love coming your way in your loss.

Best regards,
Wanda & Barry + Raisin

Dear Richard,

I just wanted to let you know how much of an influence the pair of you and Lucky, and then later Scruffy had on my life. You all as a team gave me the gift of knowing how good it feels to volunteer and help other people smile and feel better.

I still have my Annie, but, its not quite the same now that she is retired. I am so sorry for your loss as I am having a bit of a hard time over Lucky's passing myself. Do the best you can, and know we are all pulling for you. Give Scruffy and big hug and kiss for me.

Lucky will be so very, very missed by so many, many people (of course including me). You of course, will miss him the most and Scruffy too will miss his "brother" in his own way.

Thank you for the email notice.



I am so sorry for your loss. I still remember the first day you came into Tish's office with Lucky.

What a special part of your life. I am sure he is in a VERY good place due to what he was able to accomplish while he was with you. You will probably never know how many people he was able to touch and make feel better.

Take care


Good morning, Richard

I just heard about Lucky's passing. I know how much he meant to you and could see how much you loved him. I hope you take comfort in knowing that he gave joy to so many people in their time of need and helped many on their road to recovery. I'm sending you all my prayers through this difficult time.


Lee Rice
Communications and Public Relations Specialist
Eisenhower Medical Center

Dear Richard,

I'm so saddened by the news about Lucky! I ,too, felt he WAS Paws and Hearts. I'm out of town, now, and when I get back I would like to make a contribution in his name. I'm so sorry, Richard.

Lois Leiter

Hello Richard

Please accept my heart felt condolences on your loss of a fine friend and companion. You and Lucky are in our thoughts. We wish you and all your ambassadors well. Keep up the good fight.

With Warm Regards,
Rick Iacovino

Dear Richard,

I am so, so sorry and shocked to hear of the sudden passing of your beloved Lucky. Words cannot express how I feel - only that being a dog mom of wonderful boys myself, I can understand and sympathize with the grief and heartache you are going through. My thoughts and prayers are with the soul of your little boy and with you and Scruffy.

Warm regards,

Donna Craig
Chief Program Officer
Desert Healthcare District


I'm so sorry for your loss. I can only begin to imagine how you must be feeling, as I dread the day I am in your circumstance. It was a beautiful obituary, well deserved, and a tear jerker. Thinking of you.

Bruce and Kinsey


We send our sincere condolences to you and Scruffy on the loss of your sweet Lucky. I heard that your boy had passed away when we were visiting the Carlotta this morning. Maddy and I drove to your office after our visit to extend our sympathies and were sorry we missed you.

Rest in Peace Lucky,
Sue & Maddy Taylor


I am so very sorry. It is said that our four legged children are the first to meet us at the gates of heaven and welcome us home. I have no doubt that Lucky will be there to greet you. It is never farewell but just good by for now.........

Bill Youngblood

So sorry, Lucky was a true gentleman and an inspiration to all of his fellow volunteers. We will all miss his furry little face and happy bark.

Love to you and Scruffy.
Ann, Rey and Andy

I am soooo sorry to hear the news.

I too am speechless on what to say, from my own experience, loss is a toughy. The obituary is beautifully written. I hope you will find comfort in the good work he did and the memories of the many visits you both went on together over the years helping patients feel better. Please know I will be sending in a memorial donation.

Love you, Richard.

Mary Panesar,
Desert Community Foundation


I was so sorry to hear about Lucky's passing this week. I'm so sad for you and of course for all the patients who will never meet that precious pup. We're sharing the news with staff at Eisenhower, so I know many, many kind thoughts will be sent your way.

Thinking of you,

Elizabeth Wholihan
Director, Marketing and Public Relations
Eisenhower Medical Center

I am so sorry. Lucky leaves a great legacy and some big pawprints to fill. How fortunate we were to know him.

You and Scruffy cling tight to each other.


Dear Richard:

There are not words to express my sadness over Lucky's passing. I know from experience that there is nothing worse than losing one's beloved pet. That Lucky changed so many lives during his own too brief life is little consolation, but it does help to know that he influenced so many people. Richard, my heart goes out to you. Know that you and Lucky remain in my heart.


Oh Richard,

I am so very sorry. I know losing your sweet Lucky is so hard - he was your buddy for so long. What joy he brought to so many.I send you my condolences...



I am so sorry to hear this news. There is no doubt that wherever and whatever dog heaven is, Lucky has a front-row seat there for all the wonderful work he did. May you be comforted, in time, by the beautiful memories of Lucky and all he did to help make the world a better place.

With love,

ohh Ricky i am so sorry, i wish i can take a little piece of that pain for you so you can feel a little better. you loved him fully and wonderfully, as best that can ever possibly be, and Lucky knows it and feels it now, and you will most definitely see him again and again.. I love all of you!


I'm so sorry that your sweet sweet Lucky is gone. He made a difference in the lives of so many of our cancer patients and so many people in our valley.

My heart is with you,

Lucky Waxman Memorial Fund

This was Lucky's last day of visits at Eisenhower Medical Center.

Thank you all for your very generous donations in "Lucky's" memory. This list keeps growing and every note received and the sentiments expressed are sincerely appreciated.

Karen Gebala
Peg Bonda
Adrienne Stuart
Syree Gibbs
Jane R. Deah
Dyan Flyzik
Inge Fullerton
Diana Finnegan
Adrienne L. Burnell
Maxine Fitzpatrick
Donni Jean Prince
Bruce Hume
Ingrid Walker
Kathleen Widney
Carol J. Kocherhans
Patti Keylin
Rita Steffen-Susman
Chris McGuire
Valerie Zugates
Dawn Suggs
Lois Leiter
Mary Panesar
Drew Marefos
Carla B. Howard
Ann Rule
Phyllis Harkins
Ginny Tillmannshofer
Ann Kelley
Greg Phelps
Gail Richards
Ruth Beschloss
Tish Gobble
James Harp
Carol A Gunther
Clay Pettet & Gene Zak
Janet B. Miller
Ralph Ruder


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"Paws & Hearts" Animal Assisted Therapy
The Berger Foundation Building

42-600 Cook Street, Suite 138, Palm Desert, CA 92211
Phone (760) 836-1406