From the start, "Hope" was a special puppy for David and Elaine Walters.

Hope was among a litter of nine puppies born on Oct. 31 to Bailey, a 5-year-old black Lab. The father is a one-year-old AKC registered golden retriever named Rudy.

David and Elaine opted to give the puppies away, but whenever someone came to look at the dogs, Elaine would steer them away from the shy black puppy.

"That dog was special to her," David said. "That was her favorite."

The couple, from Zephyrhill, Fla., formerly of Lansford, eventually had two dogs remaining. One was given to Todd Weiss, a police officer in Coaldale.

David said his wife "said she wanted to see the remaining one - the only one they named go to some place special."

Elaine said she saw a golden retriever used as a therapy dog. She said, "It clicked in my mind. This could make a good therapy dog."

By now, the tragic shootings had occurred on Dec. 14 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. "I thought Newtown might be a good place for this dog," Elaine said.

David made some phone calls, sent e mails, and contacted the Newtown Ambulance Corps. "I asked if they would know of anyone who would benefit from having a therapy puppy," David said.

He was put in contact with crew member Chelsea Fowler, who told him "she would be glad to have that dog and the association would have it trained as a therapy dog."

What was especially unexpected was the naming of the dog.

Chelsea explained that David "sent me an e mail and said they already named the puppy 'Hope.' Five minutes before I got that e mail, I had said to my mother that we would name the dog 'Hope.'"

Chelsea, 22, has been an EMT with the Newtown Ambulance Corps for the past seven years. She was one of 25 responders from the Ambulance Corps who responded to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14. The corps has about 70 members and covers over 60 square miles. It's an all-volunteer unit, with members answering over 2,200 calls per year.

Chelsea's mother, Barbara, is also an EMT and responded to the school shootings.

Hope joins a golden retriever named Copper that Chelsea's family has. Copper "is a big lug, not a therapy dog," laughed Chelsea.

To become a therapy dog, the dog must become certified by going through special classes. Chelsea said that she has no doubts Hope has the perfect temperament for such duties.

"She has a great temperament," Chelsea said. "I'm hoping to eventually take him to children's hospitals, schools."

David Walters is a native of Whitehall and a graduate of Whitehall High School. He worked as a reporter for the TIMES NEWS from 1987 to 1992.

His wife is the former Elaine Engels of the Panther Valley.

They have four children, Jennifer Staub of Wesley Chapel, Fla.; Lisa Sommers of Nesquehoning, David Sommers of Zephyrhill, Fla., and Matthew Engels of Wesley Chapel, and seven grandchildren. David and Matthew each adopted a puppy from the litter.

David pointed out the donation of Hope to Newtown Ambulance Corps was Elaine's idea. Both David and Elaine are former EMTs who ran with the Lansford Ambulance Corps. "We couldn't even fathom how traumatic it was for the first responders," he said.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 2, David and Elaine delivered Hope to Newtown. "We arrived at about 2:45 p.m. and about 10 of the members were waiting for us," he stated. "They said the dog would be their mascot."

"To go up there, it rips your heart out," David said.

Weiss said he doesn't plan to use his puppy as a therapy dog; just as a pet. He said he's already grown attached to the dog, which he named Missy.

"She's been a bright spot in what's been a tumultuous year," he said.

Elaine said when she returns to Florida, she intends to raise funds to help pay for Hope's therapy training. She said such training costs over $600.

Chelsea spoke about her appreciation for the donation of Hope.

She said, "It was overwhelmingly generous. It was something that just lifted the entire corps' spirits."

"Thanks to this wonderful donation and the beautiful gift (Hope) will be be giving for years to come," she added.