AUSTIN, Texas — Zev the dog puppet is just one mound of fur and fleece you’ll find in Joan Klasson’s garage.

It's where Joan keeps most of her puppets - 400 to be exact.

“These are store-bought and donated puppets, ” said Klasson.

She’s been performing puppets for nearly 40 years. Klasson got her start as a young school student.

“I made my first puppet in the fourth grade in Brooklyn, New York,” she said.

But getting there wasn’t easy. Klasson suffered from Dyslexia, a reading disorder. She found her niche the day she discovered puppets.

“The puppets saved me! They saved my educational experience to make it where I could do it,” said Klasson.

Klasson became an art teacher and made sure her students had puppet skills, too. Now she takes her shows to everyone from ages eight to 80. Each show is tailor-made for the young and young at heart.

“Brings them joy, brings them memories, brings them fun!” said Zev the dog.

And it's therapeutic. Klasson and Zev have a special place in their hearts for the elderly including memory care patients.

“They like to pet me, they like to love on me, and they treat me just like a dog! Wait a minute, I am a dog!” said Zev.

“If the eyes are engaging and the conversation is engaging, it's conversation. And many of our senior citizens don’t have the opportunity to engage,” said Klasson.

But that all changes the moment Klasson and her band of puppets enter the room. 

She says some of the patients clap along, even get up and dance.

“And sometimes they’re sleeping,” said Zev.

But that’s OK. Klasson is paying it forward with a passion for puppets.

“I adore making people happy. It's how I breathe,“ said Klasson.