Meet Liberty (Libby) Jackson

Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'

A pioneer in Animal-Assisted Occupational Therapy, Libby Jackson’s passion has people across America wanting to be just like her! The Portland native is one of only a handful of OT professionals speaking, publishing and teaching fellow practitioners within her discipline how to collaborate with dogs in therapy practice. She is a stickler for research and ethical practices for all involved, in particular the rights of the animal.  

Libby is a self-professed “workaholic”, but relishes the time she spends with her fiancé, Scott, who she exclaims "is silly and always knows exactly what to say to make me laugh.” Their fur kids include Hank (the Tank), a St. Bernard; Tempe, a Labradoodle; Bunny, an English Lop Rabbit; and Laser, a Texel Guinea Pig. Tempe is her office mate. 

Tempe is her canine co-therapist; trained for therapy work by Assistance Dogs of the West in New Mexico. "I wish more people knew about the power of animals in therapy,” Libby enthuses. “Therapy interventions must involve buy-in for those in treatment in order for them to want to participate.”  

Her clients appreciate every bit of it — thanking Tempe with words, hugs, and artwork. And while Libby holds possessions loosely, “I do keep cards, drawings and mementos from clients and patients.” 

It was that tender heart that started it all. Years ago, Libby rescued a St. Bernard puppy with a foot like a hook. Large-breed dogs need every weight-bearing leg, so they are traditionally euthanized as puppies. But Emmett’s leg was amputated, and he became not only a member of Libby’s family, but her partner. The two went on to teach kids acceptance of and coping skills with disabilities, and Libby earned her Master’s in Occupational Therapy. 

"He was a pretty big spirit of a dog, a once in a lifetime dog, and he changed the whole trajectory of my life." Emmett passed three years ago; life with him continues to inspire Libby. 

"OT's are the Macgyver's of everyday life,” she explains. “An 'OT' helps people do the things that they need to, want to, or have to do in the face of illness/injury and disability." 

The work can be stressful, and nobody copes with it like Libby. 

"I do handstands whenever I'm stressed out or need a brain break. I spent my childhood in a headstand," she giggles.  

The shoes that are so her? ”Cosmic galaxy vans. I wanted fun shoes, and wore them to one of my elementary schools — the kids loved them. Now they’re my signature. These shoes have been conversation starters — both with verbal and non-verbal students. They enjoy them so much and, well, they make me pretty happy as well!" 

Fueled by a mostly healthy vegetarian diet Jackson calls “Red Velvet cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory mandatory dessert”.  

She needs the energy; by nature she “runs towards injustice; and I am a bit of a scrappy fighter!”  

Libby works for Vancouver Public Schools two days, one day at TherapyWorks NW, a nonprofit therapy clinic specializing in Hippotherapy; and is an adjunct faculty member for Pacific University's OT Doctorate program. 

“Oftentimes my proudest moments are when I get to back off and watch the relationship my dog establishes with clients. There is nothing — and I mean nothing — more powerful than watching transformation occur because of the human-animal bond." 

"Tempe is beyond phenomenal. She works with children who many times have survived extreme trauma. When a child tells you that your therapy dog is one of their best friends, you honor that connection and keep doing this work.”  

“There's no tool in my toolbox more powerful than Tempe.” 

About our Sponsor

Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years.  In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare.  Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood. 

Christy Caballero writes from her soul about animals and their humans. She and hubby Herb compete for space on the couch with three big RagaMuffin cats, two retired racing greyhounds and one slightly neurotic foster greyhound -- who never wants to leave. Ever.

UPDATE:  Slightly neurotic foster greyhound / failed foster number three. Never has to leave. Ever.