B.J. Gustafson, a beloved member of the Gustafson family, brought immeasurable joy and unwavering compassion into the lives of all who had the pleasure of knowing him. Born on January 12, 2008, B.J. was a Powder Puff Chinese Crested dog whose exuberance and loving nature left an indelible mark on the world around him. With a heart brimming with unconditional love and a jubilant spirit, B.J. embraced his role as a therapy dog from a tender age, making him an extraordinary companion to those who needed comfort and solace.
From the moment he entered this world as an adorable 4-5 pound puppy, B.J.'s effervescent personality illuminated every room he entered. He possessed an innate knack for connecting with people of all ages, but it was his profound adoration for children that truly stood out. B.J.'s gentle presence brought smiles to countless young faces and provided a source of respite during times of stress.
Known for his extensive collection of over 20 costumes and hats, B.J. radiated playfulness wherever he went. Whether he was dressed as a beach lifeguard or a whimsical hot dog, his irresistible charm captivated hearts far and wide. Sporting sunglasses with panache was yet another one of his endearing quirks that never failed to bring laughter to those around him.
In the Tri-County area schools - spanning from elementary through high school - B.J.'s involvement as an ATD Therapy dog left an enduring impact on both students and staff alike. During examination periods, he played a vital role in stress therapy events where students found solace in his calming presence. Not content with just providing support during these challenging times, B.J. also participated in the Be A Mentor Program, forging meaningful connections with several students throughout their academic journey.
Passionate about extending his care to the autism and special needs community, B.J. took great pleasure in visiting classrooms and leaving his paw prints on countless hearts. In 2019, he had the immense privilege of attending the three-day NORD Annual International Worldwide Conference held in Charleston for Children with Rare Diseases, reaffirming his dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of others. NORD, which stands for the National Organization for Rare Diseases, recognized B.J.'s unwavering commitment to spreading love and joy.
One of his most beloved commitments was participating in the Swampfest Event at Ashley Ridge School for DD2 Schools, which catered specifically to special needs students. With over 500 students in attendance, B.J.'s presence as the Easter Bunny brought boundless delight as he distributed hearts and embraced each child with hugs and warmth. He also enthusiastically participated in Career Day events at local schools, captivating young imaginations as they envisioned a future of endless possibilities.
B.J.'s exceptional ability to communicate using sign language was a testament to his intelligence and empathy. Inspired by his deaf companion Gucci, another hairless Chinese Crested who has now passed away, he quickly grasped hand signs and finger gestures. Simple finger spelling like "TR," which stood for "treats," became second nature to him. This extraordinary skill not only endeared him further to those around him but exemplified his deep desire to be a supportive friend to everyone.
Never hesitating to lend a helping paw when needed, B.J. went above and beyond by assisting with various household tasks. From retrieving the remote control to fetching the mail from the mailbox or even fetching slippers for his loved ones, B.J.'s willingness to help knew no bounds. His kindness extended far beyond the confines of his home as he spent almost two years as a Reading Dog for Summerville Library, enriching the lives of numerous avid readers before Covid interrupted the program. Undeterred, he bestowed his comforting presence upon other schools in need of a furry reading companion.
Dancing to the sound of music filled B.J.'s heart with immeasurable joy. His infectious enthusiasm drew out smiles and laughs from everyone around him, leaving a lasting impression on anyone fortunate enough to witness his rhythmic charm. His final reading event, held in October 2023 for a scheduled Reading Night out, saw him donning two different costumes - one as a dinosaur and another that piqued the imagination of all who beheld it.
Above all else, B.J.'s fondness for cuddling knew no bounds. The warmth emitted from his tender embrace provided solace during trying times and served as a reminder of the gentleness and unconditional love that he embodied so effortlessly.
On January 30th, 2024, B.J.'s time on this earth came to an end. Though his absence is deeply felt by all who cherished him, his memory continues to live on in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to call him friend or family. As we bid farewell to this remarkable furry companion, let us remember B.J.'s infectious spirit and unwavering devotion.
Rest easy now, dear B.J., and keep your tail wagging eternally.