Well, you know by now that my No. 1 passion is reading. Coming in close: cats. Dogs? Never even made the list — until I met Linda Lieberman and Rayburn, her 4-year-old “comfort” dog.
The pair first sat in on the monthly group I facilitate at Legacy Preston Hollow. Rayburn made the rounds of its participants and then lay down to watch everything. I must say, he was also a great listener!
Since that long ago time, I have been at the same facility twice to rehab myself — the second time being now. The two came to visit me last Thursday, when Rayburn put his furry beige paws on the side of my bed and lifted up his great shaggy head for me to pet.
A while back, Linda was looking for a Wheaton terrier. (Please don’t ask me what that is; I told you I’ve never had a lot to do with dogs!) But her husband, a Mills Corporation retiree, spotted this eight-month-old at Operation Kindness and told her to look: “There’s something magic about him” was what Stuart Lieberman said. And he was right.
Rayburn, who always appears smiling, is a combo of terrier, poodle and Great Pyrenees. That last is a herder breed, and Linda recalls with a smile of her own that early on, he would regroup the family’s dining room chairs! “We had to teach him that he didn’t have to work for us,” she said. All the rest came naturally.
I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t look forward to the weekly visits that have been a staple here since Janice Gail, Linda’s longtime friend, once mentioned how Rayburn seemed like he could become a perfect emotional support dog for the Legacy: calm, quiet, and unfailingly responsive to his mistress’ always-gentle commands. Now, in just about three hours, the two makes their rounds of every room, spreading happiness among residents and rehabbers alike. Though he never loses his smile, Rayburn’s especially happy in the physical therapy gym, where staffers take pleasure in introducing him to new patients. If a room is vacant because its occupant is away somewhere, that will be the pair’s first stop the next week. They also make visits by request to other such facilities as Presbyterian Village North and Presbyterian Hospital’s Jackson rehabilitation center, but Legacy Preston Hollow is their only regular territory.
Now: let’s not forget the reading! Linda, who’s been here in Dallas with Stuart since the early ’70s, is also retired. A rabbi’s daughter, her stellar educational career was fueled by an undergraduate degree from Long Island University and a master’s from Yeshiva in diagnostics and remediation: She pioneered the reading center at Fairhill School for children with learning differences, co-directed the Bridges program at E.H. Cary Junior High in near-west Dallas, directed Writing to Read at David E. Burnet elementary on the city’s northwest side, and taught English as a Second Language and reading to at-risk students in W.H. White high. It’s no surprise that Linda could teach Rayburn all his necessary “techniques” herself.
When the arrival of the couple’s first child was expected, Stuart’s parents also decided to arrive — moving here in 1977 from New York, where he and Linda had been born and raised. Old-timers will remember the couple as Goody and Lou Lieberman, both active members of the Dallas JCC. That baby was son Marc, now a resident of Carrollton and Southlake director of Benchmark Hospitality. Second son Barry and wife Tressi live in Corona del Mar, California; he is project manager for Kelley Blue Book in Irvine.
What else is special about Rayburn? He’s a lefty — just watch which paw he always places first! And what’s extra-special about Linda? No way could she be other than the caring person she is, because she was born with the mandate embodied in her maiden name. It just happens to be — Goodheart!