JOY unleashed

It's a book about a dog. It's a love story. It's a canine Cinderella miracle. It's about service and kindness.


From Connecticut Magazine:

Published by Skyhorse Publishing, "Joy Unleashed" tells the true story of Bella:  her rescue from Dead Dog Beach in Puerto Rico, how she was flown to New Jersey with forty other dogs, her month in a shelter there getting the care she so desperately needed, and her adoption by Jean and her husband, Bob, when she was four months old.

Part lab, terrier and whippet, Bella was a tough dog to train. She has that terrier drive and independence, and would rather do things her way. But she learned basic obedience, then did two years of agility training, before starting the arduous process of being certified as a therapy dog. Here are some of the ways Bella makes a difference:

  • An Alzheimer's patient who is clutching her dolls as if they were her own babies, learns to smile again when Bella takes a treat from her hand
  • A six-year old boy with autism and a deep fear of dogs, tells his teacher, "I want to see Bella!"
  • A disabled hospital patient who is withdrawn and uncommunicative, opens up when Bella jumps up in bed with him
  • Cancer patients lined up in recliners getting chemotherapy, look forward to "paws up" and Bella's sleek body resting on their laps 

Written in alternating chapters--Bella's rescue and training interspersed with her work as a certified therapy dog--you'll discover what it takes to become a therapy dog and how these extraordinary animals affect patients in nursing homes and hospitals, and help children feel excited about learning. My personal story is another thread in this narrative--Bella helped me find my way after losing my job, selling our house, and moving to another state to start over. Join us in our adventure--it's an amazing journey. The book is available in independent bookstores and on Amazon--both as a paperback and on Kindle. 

See Jean Baur's Website for information on her other books as well as a calendar of her burnout and career speaking engagements. 

Watch a short video to see Bella on Better Connecticut TV:

Stay tuned for upcoming Bella and Jean's book speaking events on the Contact page. 

Check out the wonderful article about Bella in the November issue of Connecticut Magazine:

Jean Baur and Bella

When a dog — especially a therapy dog — walks into a room, everyone’s mood is immediately lifted, says Jean Baur.

“It’s hard really to explain the kind of magic that these dogs create,” says Baur, a Stonington author. “I call them ambassadors of exuberance. They come into a room and the room lights up.”

Working with her therapy dog Bella — a lab, terrier, whippet and possibly Mexican hairless mix — Baur has witnessed this magic over and over again in cancer hospital wards and colleges, in nursing homes and elementary schools, from the young and from the old. Baur has been consistently amazed by “the deeply intuitive way that dogs seem to know what each person needs.”

This ability to lift people’s spirits inspired Baur to write Joy Unleashed: The Story of Bella, The Unlikely Therapy Dog, which was published in August by Skyhorse Publishing. Baur will sign copies of the book at the Groton Public Library’s annual Authors’ Festival on Nov. 5 from noon to 3 p.m., and at Guilford Free Library on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.

The book centers around Bella — a rescue dog with a harrowing history — and her sometimes rocky road to becoming a therapy dog, while at the same time examining the impact these four-legged creatures have on their two-legged friends.

“It takes the reader into the everyday miracles that happen when dogs go into a hospital, nursing home, school or cancer center,” explains Baur. “And it’s also my story — how Bella helped me after I lost my job at age 65.”

Baur had worked as a career counselor and had written the books The Essential Job Interview Handbook and Eliminated! Now What?: Finding Your Way from Job-Loss Crisis to Career Resilience. She is also a member of the National Speakers Association, and her new book has many elements of an effective speech — it is direct, informative and easy to connect with.

Bella’s story began on Puerto Rico’s “dead dog beach,” a notorious stretch of sand and jungle where local people leave unwanted dogs. Bella was rescued from the beach and ultimately ended up in a shelter in New Jersey not far from where Baur and her husband Bob were living at the time.

The couple’s previous dog, Angus, had died about a year earlier. “We had seen a puppy online, so we drove over there,” Baur says.

However, when they met the puppy they’d seen online, it wasn’t exactly a match made in heaven. “The puppy took one look at us and took off, so the woman that worked there said, ‘I don’t think this is the dog for you.’”

On that same trip they were introduced to another puppy. “She came and just sat on my husband’s foot,” Baur recalls. They learned about this puppy’s troubled history and how she had been rescued from Puerto Rico. They debated about whether or not to take her. Ultimately, Baur says “cuteness won out and we took her home.”

They named her Bella.

She was always sweet and playful, but hadn’t shed her troubled early years entirely and had some behavioral issues. “She was an absolutely crazy puppy,” Baur says. She told her vet that Bella was wild and full of energy, “He said, ‘Well, this is a dog that needs a job,’ and suggested agility training.”

Baur and Bella competed in agility events with their various jumps and tunnels for two years, but Baur says, “It just wasn’t the right fit for either of us.”

When a friend began looking into having her dog certified as a therapy dog, Baur decided that she and Bella would tag along to classes. Therapy dog certification is a rigorous process: among other things, dogs must be calm around other dogs, allow strangers to touch them, not jump on people when interacting and be able to walk on a leash without pulling. Dogs also have to obey basic commands such as sitting and staying both from its owner and other handlers.

Some who knew both Baur and Bella didn’t think the rescue dog from Puerto Rico would be up to the task. “There were a number of people who said to me along the way, ‘Bella will never become a therapy dog.’ That’s all somebody has to say to me to make me want to do it,” Baur says.

Bella, who is 9 years old, has been a therapy dog for five years and still works regularly. Baur would encourage other owners of friendly dogs to have theirs trained and certified as therapy dogs despite what naysayers may say. She also remains in awe of the way the dogs are capable of brightening people’s moods.

“Some of it’s almost surreal. I’m often with another handler and her dog, and if you walk down the hospital corridor with two dogs, it’s really powerful; people just stop. Whether it’s doctors, nurses, aides, janitors, families, there’s just this immediate, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a dog here.’”

Joy Unleashed is available at several Connecticut bookstores, as well as online. For more information and to learn about Baur’s upcoming author talks, go to​