A Pet Partners Tribute  
Friday, January 29, 2010

Guest bloggers Eric and Nicole Shumate share a tribute about Dan Backer, a Delta Society Pet Partner who passed in 2009.

"If the measure of a man is based upon what he leaves behind, then Dan Backer was truly a great man. Dan shared so much of himself while he was with us, that many more stories exist than I can possible share here. Our community was a far better place because Dan lived in it.

Dan was surely surprised to stumble upon Paws & Effect, learning about us through a trainer at Rover’s Ranch. He wasn’t sure what it entailed or even whether he wanted to be involved, but in true Dan character, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to try becoming a Pet Partner. Jesse had never trained for dog agility, but she proved to be a natural, working with Dan for more than two years at ChildServe. Over the course of the last few years, Dan became a ribbon-winning dog handler, a confident trainer and more capable than even he thought he could become.

At one of the seminars he attended with us, Dan was pretty convinced that everything Kathy Sdao discussed was beyond his capacity to apply – and nobody was more surprised to learn that he could successfully change a cue for a dog’s behavior. Hence, “jump” became “cow” so that Jesse could be the “cow that jumped over the moon.” The ability to change a cue for a behavior became integral at ChildServe, especially when a particular child couldn’t say a certain thing or move a certain way. Dan could modify the cue to something the child could perform and then encourage a child to continue to work with Jesse. I clearly recall a little boy who lost both of his parents in a car accident and the injuries he suffered in the same incident. How hard that little boy worked to hold a treat and give it to Jesse. And the smile that followed was unusual which made us cherish it all the more. Dan managed to turn the speech/physical/occupational therapy sessions that we fondly call “agility” into a spectator sport for that little boy.His grandfather brought him in every week to watch Dan work with the child to whom he was assigned.

Not many volunteers will hear that it is more fun to spend time with them and their dog doing agility than it is to go to Disneyworld. So popular was Jesse that she had the honor of taking professional photographs for senior photos with the young lady she worked for weekly at ChildServe.  Dan was not immune from the things we witness at ChildServe and he often commented on how difficult it was to watch another person’s condition deteriorate. He cherished the fun they had together each Thursday, driving 45 minutes each way to participate at ChildServe.

Dan brought a nice perspective to our cause and even some tools. Our second Pet Partner evaluation was held one fateful Saturday morning during torrential rains and deafening claps thunder of a storm that refused to move on through. The lights went out and the evaluations were in jeopardy. Individuals had driven from Burlington, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids as far as four hours of white knuckle driving. Dan ran home, grabbed his generator, extension cords and enough fuel to get us through the day. Dan lit the place up. Without Dan and his mechanical know how saved the day.

We are so fortunate to have many photos of Dan and Jesse together. For the second time in just a few months we are grieving the loss of a friend. While we couldn’t be more fortunate to have such wonderful people in our lives, we wish that we were given more time to enjoy their friendship."

In a recent email, Eric told us that Dan's daughter, who has never had a dog, has now adopted Jessie and has informed us that once she is in a better place with Dan's passing she plans to continue the work her father started. She is going to become a Pet Partner! Now that is truly touching!

Thank you to our guest bloggers, Nicole and Eric Shumate.

We knew being a Pet Partner was Lila's destiny!  
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Lila is a 3-1/2 year old Havanese and has been a Delta Society Pet Partner for over a year. Lila joined Nancy Goldberg’s family of large dogs (a Standard Poodle, German Shepard, and a retired sled dog) as a puppy. Nancy’s poodle, Dreidel is also a Pet Partner, working at an Alzheimer's facility, so she was already familiar with Delta Society.

Nancy says she appreciates the value of a dog having a "job", giving it purpose, and making it a better and more obedient pet overall. It was apparent to her early on that Lila brought joy to people. EVERYONE smiled when they saw her - even people who weren’t fond of small dogs. Her eyebrows and face showed such expression. As a puppy, Nancy started taking Lila on the airplane rides to visit her elderly father who used to race sled dogs. He loved Lila and she showed him so much love that he really looked forward to her visits. Nancy knew being a Pet Partner was Lila's destiny.

This Pet Partners team decided to volunteer at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA. They visit the oncology ward weekly. Nancy has had family members in the hospital and can appreciate the boredom that comes along with a hospital stay. Lila not only brings joy, but she also provides a distraction and a change from the hospital routine. She is a vehicle for the patients to share their feelings about missing home and their families, or to tell Nancy about their pets. Lila also provides comfort in the way that only petting a soft animal will do.

In fact, Lila and Nancy were profiled in the fall 2009 edition of Delta Society Interactions Magazine precisely for the comfort they provided to a little girl and her family! They entered a hospital room where a toddler was crying and the mom was in tears and very upset. You can read that story here.

Suffice to say, by the time Lila and Nancy left, the family was laughing and smiling and the father told Nancy they needed to get a little dog just like Lila when he was released from the hospital!

Nancy and Lila are proof that therapeutic animals can touch your life in a ‘paws’itive way! Thanks for all you do in our community to help people feel better!

Woofs and Tail Wags,


A friend to all animals…as animals are friends to all of us.  
Monday, January 25, 2010

A few days ago, a friend picked me and Annie up at our office to go to lunch. While I’ve known this person for several years and know she is deeply passionate about animal rescue – domesticated and wildlife - I hadn’t appreciated how much until I got into her car for the first time.

Neatly organized in every ‘pocket’ designed by the car’s manufacturer – likely for maps, beverages, snacks, children’s books and games in the backseat, were ‘just in case supplies’. Supplies such as cat and dog food, tubes of highly concentrated nutrients that can be squeezed into a severely emaciated animal’s mouth, leashes, fresh water, towels, blankets, heavy work gloves – you never know when you’ll find an eagle curbside who can’t fly - and even suture supplies – just in case she finds an injured, bleeding animal that needs a quick stitch before transport to a veterinarian.

As we talked about all the things she had in the car and why she had them, she started sharing stories of her experiences when she ran a wildlife rescue rehabilitation center in California. She also shared how on her first trip to the Northwest she and her husband took a boat tour near the San Juan Islands.

On the boat, she started crying. Crying tears of joy. There were orca whales swimming freely in the distance, sea otters frolicking by the shore and bald eagles soaring overhead. So much of her life had been devoted to helping the injured and the near death, that being able to just witness these healthy animals in their natural setting was overwhelming.

The commitment this woman has made to helping animals is impressive indeed. Why is she so dedicated? Because she values all life. She appreciates how animals whether in the wild or in our homes help make this world a better place for us humans to live.

She recognizes the joy and serenity that resonates in our inner being when we watch deer running through the woods, or eagles soaring high above, or squirrels scurrying up trees and jumping from limb to limb.

She relishes in the joy that her own rescued cats and dogs bring to her and others. She’s experienced how pets have helped her, her family and friends cope and manage through tough times. She’s witnessed how a pet can ease someone’s pain, help them feel comforted, or just turn a bad day into a smiling moment – when no other human could manage to help.

She understands the healing power of animals – and in return is there to help protect the animals.

Who is my friend? She is someone you know. Lori Moak-Kean – Delta Society volunteer and weekly blog contributor. Thank you Lori for being a shining example of the power of the human-animal bond. (And, thanks for buying Annie and I lunch that day.)


Online Animal-Assisted Therapy Course for Professionals Announced  
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The Univeristy of New Hampshire in collaboration with Delta Society is offering an online course for professionals interested in incorporating Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) into their practices.

This course provides health care and educational professionals with the comprehensive knowledge necessary to begin using AAT in their practice and provides exposure to client assessment and client treatment skills vital to AAT.

Students will get comprehensive knowledge necessary to begin using Animal-Assisted Therapy in their practice, as well as exposure to client assessment and treatment skills.

The course will take approximately six hours at the student's own pace, with opportunities for online discussions with the instructor. 

Learn more about the course including cost, CEUs and how to register. Registration ends February 22, 2010.

My Experience Shadowing a Pet Partners Visit (Part 1)  
Friday, January 22, 2010
Next Tuesday I will have the pleasure of shadowing a long time Delta Society Pet Partners team (and co-worker of mine) along on one of her visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital. I thought it would be interesting to do a two-part blog this week and next of my expectations leading up to the visit, and then share what the experience was like through my eyes. Perhaps some of you reading this blog are currently Pet Partners, maybe this blog will make you think back to the excitement leading up to your first visit. If, like me, you are not a Pet Partner, I hope to provide you with good reporting and a little insight to what it is like.

Why am I shadowing a Pet Partners visit? Working for Delta Society I hear hundreds of stories and talk to so many volunteers, but I feel that fully experiencing the power of a visit is probably best done first hand. I want to be able to witness exactly what goes into a visit, I also believe the first-hand knowledge will help me better explain the process to people I speak to through my role as Marketing Coordinator who are curious about becoming a Pet Partners team. I feel fortunate to experience this without being a registered Pet Partner - although I would love to be one, it would not be the right fit for my rambunctious Weimaraner who seems to think that the whole world is one large off leash dog park.

I will be shadowing Rachel and her dog Mia on one of their scheduled Tuesday evening visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Shadowing means that I will just be an extra pair of eyes and hands, I will not be handling the dog at any point, nor will I be the lead on the visit. Although I’ve heard many stories about visits, and I’ll really be watching more than participating, I am still a little nervous for the new experience. How will I emotionally handle seeing a sick child? Will I be able to be strong enough to be in the room with a family who is going through a very hard time? Will I be lucky enough to witness the comfort that a visit can bring? Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to being a small part of the visit next Tuesday. I look forward to leaving Seattle Children’s Hospital with an incredible new experience under by belt, and my own set of stories about the magic that a Pet Partners team brought to a hospital one Tuesday night.

Until next week….


Lessons from a Feline Master  
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I met Ingrid King online through our mutual friend Shreve Stockton (of The Daily Coyote ‘fame’ ). We started talking and learned we had much in common – for instance, she lives in  Herndon, VA - the town that was my high school’s rival football team (unfortunately, Herndon usually beat McLean). We used to write ad copy, worked for many years in the corporate sector and then enjoyed over a decade of working in the veterinary ‘world’. And, we have a particular fondness for tortoiseshell cats and their unique personalities. In fact, as I type this, our darling rescued tortie, Miss Monique, is sitting on my lap and purring.

During one of our email ‘chats’, we were talking about pets and the human-animal bond.  Ingrid casually mentioned she’d recently written a book. I immediately read her book and was entranced by Buckley’s Story.

“Buckley’s Story is the story of how one small cat changed the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined. In this warm-hearted memoir, Ingrid King shares the story of Buckley, a joyful, enthusiastic and affectionate tortoiseshell cat she meets while managing a veterinary hospital. When Ingrid leaves her job at the veterinary hospital to start her own business, Buckley comes home to live with her and Amber, another tortoiseshell cat who had adopted the author several years earlier.

Buckley is diagnosed with heart disease after only two years of living with Ingrid, and caring for Buckley through her illness only deepens the bond between cat and human. Interspersed with well-researched information about cat health in general, and heart disease in particular, the author describes the challenges and rewards of managing illness in a feline companion, and ultimately helping her through the final transition. Ingrid shares both the day-to-day joys of living with a special cat as well as the profound grief that comes with losing a beloved animal companion.

Buckley’s Story is a celebration of the soul connection between animals and humans, a connection that is eternal and transcends the physical dimension.”

Dr. Marty Becker, author of The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets To Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy” praises Ingrid’s book:

Buckley’s Story is a true celebration of the bond between pets and their humans.  This story of a “gimpy” little tortoiseshell cat with a huge heart who changed her human’s life in unexpected ways shows us how pets teach us universal lessons about living a joyful life, how caring for a terminally ill pet can deepen this special bond, and how to navigate the devastating grief that comes with losing a beloved animal companion.”

Ingrid, sincere thanks for sharing Buckley with the world ~ and for the ongoing writing you do (http://consciouscat.net/) which reinforces the importance of pets in our lives and the happiness and love they provide.   

Hugs, Lori

Therapeutic horse riding: kids with special needs make progress in the saddle  
Monday, January 18, 2010

There is something about the horse. Beautiful. Rugged. Free spirited. And, therapeutic.

Many children with special needs find bonding, riding and taking care of horses exceedingly therapeutic and may be including in an overall treatment program.

Children with physical disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy who have difficulties with locomotion, are able to feel the comforting natural rhythm of walking perhaps for the first time. It improves nerve and muscle coordination as well as muscle strength and can prevent further dysfunction caused by lack of muscle and joint use. Stronger muscles help with breathing, sitting upright and speech.

Many children with developmental delays or on the autism spectrumalso find great reward from this therapy. Some children who have been previously non-verbal may speak for the first time when they want to communicate with a horse.

According to Aspen Education Group therapeutic riding is sometimes called Hippotherapy (Hippo, Greek for horse) and can benefit a child in the following ways:

• relaxing tight muscles
• increasing balance
• building muscle strength
• sharpening hand/eye coordination
• gaining a sense of body-awareness
• gaining a sense of self-control
• gaining a sense of self-confidence
• improving communication
• improving concentration
• improving socialization
• improving patience
• improving fine motor coordination
• improving sensory integration

For kids with special developmental or physical needs, therapeutic horseback riding or Hippotherapy is not only great exercise but builds skills and confidence for life.

Shelley Dillon
Guest Blogger

Click here to access research abstracts on hippotherapy.

The copyright of the article is owned by Shelley Dillon, Therapeutic horse riding: kids with special needs make progress in the saddle. Thank you Shelley for giving permission to Delta Society to reprint this informative look at hippotherapy. To learn more about Shelley, click here.

Working Dawgs: The Human Animal Connection  
Sunday, January 17, 2010

Satellite TV viewers - mark your calendars for Tuesday, 1/19 at 7:00 pm (CST) to watch the next episode of Working Dawgs on In Country Television. This episode is all about how animals improve people's health and quality of life. 

Alan Beck from the Center for the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University shares his insights into research that's been done which clearly demonstrates how animals truly have a profound impact on us. Additional interviews from professionals incorporating animals into their practices, and insights from every day people whose own pets enrich their lives are also featured.

Footage of several Delta Society Pet Partners teams at work and an interview with Pet Partners team, Laura Ibsen and Patches, makes this episode even more special for us.

The show can be found on DISH Ch .230 or Direct Ch.344.

Sometimes a dog is as good as any man  
Friday, January 15, 2010

I’ve always been playfully made fun of by my family for the overly excited reactions I have to animals. I can’t drive by a dog in another car without making a “That’s so CUTE!” comment, or walk by a dog on the street without getting very giddy about it. My husband jokes that no matter what the dog looks like, I always say it’s the best looking dog I’ve seen all week. I can’t walk by a pet store without wanting to go in and see what’s up for adoption. I can’t drive by the animal shelter without pulling over and taking a quick peek inside.

My love of animals makes me an easy person to shop for-- I love any gift that has to do with them. For my birthday last month, a small envelope arrived for me in the mail from my brother in New York. It had a green tee shirt in it, with a sketch of a Weimaraner on it (my dog’s breed) with the writing “Brave Friend” underneath. Along the shoulder blades on the backside the shirt says, “Sometimes a dog is as good as any man.” I recognized that instantly as a lyric from a song from a band that my brother likes. This was such a personal and fitting gift – but it wasn’t until I noticed a sticker in the package with the web site from where this shirt came from that it was even more special.

I looked up the web site on the sticker -- Brave Friend Apparel and Design is a company started by Patrick Donovan, a guy my brother’s age who lost everything in a house fire in 1999. His house caught on fire in the middle of the night, and Patrick was only woken up by his Weimaraner Tanner licking his face to warn him. Patrick writes, “When I arose I saw that the house was completely engulfed in flames and I had only a few seconds to break my roommate’s door down and pull him out to safety before the house collapsed. I thought my dog had followed me out but in all the confusion he was still inside. I tried to save him but the windows were painted shut.” Tanner died early that morning.

Patrick wasn’t sure how to rebuild his life, and was completely devastated by the loss of his dog and his belongings. Thinking he would never see his Tanner’s face again, he started sketching his picture. After much positive feedback from friends and family, his artwork progressed into the start of Brave Friend Apparel and Design, created in Tanner’s honor. Since 1999, Patrick has passed out stickers to promote his art and apparel company. Now, Patrick is happy to say that “thousands of people around this country know about Brave Friend and the story about the dog behind it, more then they know me.” Above all, he loves being able to see Tanner’s face every day.

What is amazing to me is how Tanner continues to have an impact on Patrick’s life. The dog that once saved his life is now helping him rebuild it.

I proudly wear my tee shirt with Tanner’s picture on it. As Patrick’s grassroots company grows, the story of Tanner spreads with it… and as an animal lover, this is truly the best part about the gift my brother gave me.


Partners for three years…..friends for LIFE!  
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Bruce Williams-Burden is a Chief Physician Assistant in the Neurosurgery Service at the VA. He has been a PA for thirty five years and has been employed at the VA since 1986. Bruce was a Navy Corpsman for 4 yrs and from 1966 – ’70 he was attached to the Marines in Southern California and South Vietnam. In fact, small world, he may very well have worked with my father (also a Marine) who was also stationed in CA and Vietnam during that time frame!

I met Bruce online through a fellow Pet Partners team – Diane Rich and Fraser. Diane and Bruce worked together this summer at Camp Korey and she thought I’d like to talk with Bruce about his Pet Partner, Ivan. I have a very special love for greyhounds and have been involved in greyhound rescue for two decades.

Bruce and I shared a few emails back and forth over the last couple of weeks. I asked him to tell me about how he found Ivan and what they do together as a Pet Partners team.

“Ivan and I met about four years ago about three months after we lost our other Greyhound named Joe. Ivan had been found wandering the streets, malnourished, and seemingly abused. He was injured while in the kennel and required five surgeries and seven months of Rehab. I knew he would be okay though because he was a survivor.

Following his recovery he and I went thru obedience training in which he excelled. While there I learned about Delta Society and considered the Reading with Rover program but decided I would not have the patience that would be required.

I was MEDEVAC Corpsman in Vietnam and work now in the VA Hospital so I thought Ivan and I would make a great team, so we went through the training and subsequently became a Pet Partners team at the VA.

We visit the Nursing Home, Hospice, and Rehabilitation Ward once a week.  In the past Ivan and I paid weekly visits to a young Veteran who had sustained a head injury overseas and had his folks with him every day....Whenever we came, despite the fact he was in a coma, I would share Ivan's week with him.....although I could not discern any change in his status, his folks said he was more active after we left.

One other patient, who has since passed away, was a WW II Marine veteran who had fought in the South Pacific and was a dog handler. Seeing Ivan reminded him of his Doberman back then. He shared several stories about how the dog had saved his life and others before he was killed by the enemy. He cried as he hugged Ivan.

It is very fulfilling visiting with these men and women who have served our nation, many during its time of need and now many in their time of need. Along the way Ivan and I have lost some good friends.

I think what Ivan brings to them besides a break in routine is a moment or two of peace, remembrance of a four-legged friend at home or of long ago, and knowing there is still unconditional love in the world.

Bruce & Ivan ~ Partners for three years…..Friends for life.”

Semper Fi Bruce & Ivan and a big “OOO-RAH” for all you do to give joy and comfort to these veterans who’ve sacrificed so much!


Pets Bring Peace of Mind  
Monday, January 11, 2010

“Call my chiropractor, I did it again!” comes the muffled cries from the large lump beneath my blanket. I am paralyzed…by pets, and I’m paying the price for twisting my torso for their comfort yet again.

But, seriously, who could expect me to move when my West Highland white terrier, Keely, is three-quarters under the covers beside me and has her little head draped over my throat; my cat, Giles, is perched high on my hip; my second Westie, Blanche, is nestled in my knee pit; my second cat, Xander, is curled up and purring in my arms; and my third Westie, Ambrose, is snuggled against my feet? Nothing short of the smoke alarms blaring is going to get me out of my bed until the critters themselves are good and ready (meaning they’re hungry, have to go outside, or have detected a squirrel has crept into their yard).

I know I’m being used. A line from the musical Oliver! comes to mind at these moments: “Consider yourself part of the furniture.” But I wouldn’t trade my role as their human ottoman for the world. My pets, which also include two finches, Atticus and Scout, who thankfully opt not to sleep in bed with me, are the most important “people” in my life, aside from my hubby, who fortunately feels the same way.

Before you rag on me, yes, I know full well they’re animals. I feed the five carnivores a raw-meat diet, something I never serve my human friends and family. I discipline them when they squabble over a chew toy or jump on the kitchen counter, take them on long walks to teach them to use a loose leash, make them wait to let me in doors or down stairs ahead of them, etc. Most of the time I actually am their pack leader.

But in bed, I’m just another animal.

The presence of these warm, loving creatures brings me a depth of peace and happiness I truly cannot adequately describe. Suffice it to say, I would not willingly live without animals. I need them to survive emotionally as much as they need me and my opposable thumbs to survive physically; they suck at operating can openers and/or cleaning their own litter boxes.

I purposely avert my eyes from the omnipresent gruesome news stories, those that redundantly prove the depths of depravity of which we humans are capable. Instead, I watch my four-legged companions at play or pet them while they’re sleeping in a patch of sunshine and instantly achieve a Zen-like state. They’re never part of the world’s problems. I’ve never once read headlines like “Kamikaze Kittens Bomb Seafood Factory” or “Tyrannical Terriers Turn Terrorist.”

Yes, they do all instinctively go after rodents, but there is never malice aforethought in their actions, so it hardly equals the evil some homo sapiens do out of greed, jealousy, fear, addiction, or for the sheer perverse thrill it gives them.

Humans are the only creatures that can and do create suffering for themselves and others. Dwelling on past wrongs that can never be altered—playing the endless-loop tape of “if only…”—or fretting over a future that has not yet arrived—listening to “what if…” bounce off the insides of our craniums—our minds struggle to live anyplace but where we actually are—not yesterday, not tomorrow, simply now.

Letting go of all that is over and done means never having to harbor a grudge or feel stinging regret. Animals, having no concept of the future of the economy or the swift destruction of the environment, or the ongoing wars in the Middle East, reside happily in the moment and teach us, if we pay attention, to do the same.

I never achieve that state of acceptance, of peace, better than when I’m surrounded by, even buried beneath, my furry family members. Nothing keeps me in the now like listening to their purrs or puppy snores and/or watching them chase phantom squirrels in their sleep. My heart swells. I sigh, smile, and resolve to call that chiropractor when we all finally get up…if my arm will still move. Under the weight of my cat, it’s been asleep quite a while.

Sid Korpi
Guest Blogger & Author of "Good Grief Finding Peace After Pet Loss"

Animals in the Workplace  
Friday, January 08, 2010
Pets in the workplace? It was something I had heard of before – but those were the types of unconventional office situations that also had indoor basketball courts and cracked open beers on Friday afternoons. When I imagined it, I pictured huge dog play areas, lots of barking and maybe even a vending machine full of treats and bones. Definitely not your typical professional office setting.

My preconceived notions were quickly nixed the first time I pulled into the parking lot at Delta Society. I parked next to a spot of grass that had a convenient doggy bag dispenser set up, and walked into a quiet, professional office- there was no dog smell (and definitely no indoor basketball court!). I couldn’t believe there were pets in this office! JoAnn and her adorable Maltese/Bichon Belle came out of their office to greet me for my interview. Have you ever had an important interview when a dog was present? This was my first… it certainly can be a window into your potential employer’s world. Belle sat attentively on JoAnn’s lap during my interview, providing a calming effect on me during this nerve-racking meeting. When Belle did something cute, I could pause for comic relief. This was my first time experiencing the benefit of having an animal in the workplace. I liked it.

My first week in the office I met Hank (Jill’s calm yellow Lab), Stella (Ana’s tiny Puggle), Koda (Kerrisa’s goofy Golden Retriever) and Mia (Rachel’s friendly Bassethound/Labrador). Each pet stays in an office closed off by a gate, or on a leash when moving around the halls. I found the whole thing to be charming. When there is a dog in an office setting, you are able to know you co-workers on a completely different level. There is a softer side, not just because we are “animal people,” but because people are wearing their hearts on their sleeve when they bring their beloved pet to work. It’s a breath of fresh air, and can be extremely relaxing as well. If something has happened that has you a little worked up, taking the dog on a quick walk down the street, or even just petting them can be a huge stress relief.

It has been charming to have my new furry friends around during the day, and it provides a wonderful comradery among staff. I’ve had friends comment on how great it is that my organization allows pets in the workplace. I think that if the proper guidelines are set up, this would be a tremendously beneficial thing for more offices to take into consideration.

A Legacy Lives On….  
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
I met Gina Kimble and her truly exquisite English Pointer, Olive, this summer at a dog event in Duvall. Delta Society had a booth there and we met a lot of wonderful dogs and their humans that day. Gina and her hubby came by and we had a delightful chat about Olive and also their beloved Doberman Neo, now deceased. I asked them if they’d be interested in sharing their story on our blog.

Well, MANY months later we finally connected (thanks Gina for your patience!) and she shared her Pet Partners story:

“Neo was a handsome, sensitive and sometimes silly Doberman. But I would also soon find out just how special a dog he was. Walking through downtown La Connor one day was a deciding moment for both Neo and me. We stopped at a small retirement home along the way and had a wonderful visit with two residents sitting on the front porch. From that encounter, I decided we were on our way to becoming Pet Partners. We did have some challenges before our partnership would become official.

Neo was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and so we cancelled our Delta Society Pet Partners evaluation. Despite his illness, my vet encouraged me to still pursue therapy dog activities. That turned out to be very good advice. Neo visited a nursing home for the next one and half years. The residents called him the "gentle horse" and absolutely loved seeing him. We said our last goodbye to Neo on Jan.13, 2009.

Saying goodbye was very difficult but after much reflection I decided it was time to train Neo's little sister to be a Pet Partner. Olive, a gorgeous English Pointer, needed to carry on his legacy. And Olive has certainly done that. Olive also started out visiting a nursing home and bringing joy to the residents. Since she especially enjoys children, she spent her summer working at Camp Korey spreading her love to medically fragile children who thoroughly enjoyed petting her. She recently also became a Reading With Rover dog and likes listening to children read to her at Barnes & Noble and Borders Books. So, what's next? Well, Olive has a new 7 month old brother in training to become a Pet Partner with Delta Society!

Yes, the legacy does indeed live on.”

Big hugs to Gina and Olive – thanks for helping the kids at Camp Korey this summer – I heard they all absolutely loved Olive!


A decision that two must make.  
Monday, January 04, 2010
You work for Delta Society, so why aren't you a Pet Partner with your dog? I get asked that question a lot. The answer is simple – because my dog isn't comfortable being a therapy animal. No, she's not a mean dog and yes, she knows her basic obedience skills such as sit, down, stay and come – and even a few adorable tricks.

Believe me, there is nothing more that I would like than to be a volunteering at a hospice center or hospital by sharing the love of my sweet, precious Belle (Maltese/Bichon) with others. But being a Pet Partner is not a decision for one. It's a decision that two must make – the human and the animal. Both ends of the leash must clearly want to do this work.

You see, Belle spent the first 2 ½ years of her life with little to no socialization and while she's made tremendous progress in the 2+ years since she's been part of my family, she still isn't quite comfortable with meeting new people. She's still somewhat shy and often backs up a step or two as someone reaches out to pet her.

While my hope has always been to be a Pet Partner with Belle, I've recently decided to no longer make that my goal. If it happens, it'll be one of the most joyous days of my life, but if not that's okay as well. I've come to realize – and its been hard – that having people reach out to pet her may never be something that Belle is truly comfortable with.

I'm going to continue doing things with Belle that I know she likes – like exploring different parks, visiting our friend's house with the large fenced yard where she can run and run, going to our Bichon Buddies play group, and taking agility classes (which also happen to build her confidence).

I think responsible 'pet parenting' is knowing and appreciating what your animal is capable of and what they enjoy, and helping them to be the best they can be. It's about having a mutual, respectful relationship and not forcing your pet to do something just because you think it would be fun or rewarding for you. Sometimes that means we must change our plans so we can truly be our pets' best guardian and advocate for their happiness and well-being.


A story from the frontline: how a dog can improve therapeutic intervention  
Friday, January 01, 2010

Guest blogger Amy Johnson is a counselor, lecturer, founder and program director of the non-profit organizatino, Teacher's Pet: Dogs and Kids learning Together.  Her blogs can be found on the American Counseling Association web site.

“Sandy Urkovich is a counselor in Sanibel Island, Florida and a recent graduate of an online animal assisted therapy certificate program. With her clients, Sandy uses her own dogs who have helped not only ameliorate relationships, but often provide a temporary deflection of feelings of pain, or offer a shoulder to cry on. Here is what Sandy has to say about her dog Duke: “Duke came into my life when he was two years old…after being ‘forgotten’ once the children of his human family were born in his former home in Chicago. I flew him to Florida in 2002 and he has been a very relevant part of our family ever since.

Initially quite shy and traumatized by the flight, he did not have an appetite for a few days so I had to hand feed him to sustain him. It took nearly a month for him to warm up to his brothers, Murphy and Riley. His phobic behaviors included a fear of tile floors and swimming in the pool, which made me wonder what happened to him. It turned out he had fallen down a flight of stairs when he was a puppy and was thrown into a swimming pool. Duke loved to sleep in our bed, curling up between my husband and I and our other Chocolate lab, Riley.

I immediately began taking Duke to my very small, closet sized office with me. He greeted people instantly at the door since the small space didn’t provide him room to go anywhere else. His size was intimidating for some, but after being lovingly kissed by this gentle giant, they would soon relax. Duke was apprehensive around big men and often stood back, until one day a new client came to the office, visibly troubled. He was tall and muscular and could have easily taken Hulk Hogan in a wrestling match! The man sat down and Duke cautiously walked over to my side and sat next to me.

As the man began explaining his situation, he suddenly burst into tears, put his head down and put his hands over his face, and sobbed. The room was quiet, except for his muffled sobs. Duke watched the man intently and very slowly walked over to him…with deep concentration. Duke then put his nose under one arm and started nudging the man to pick up his head. It took just a few moments for my client to figure out what was going on, but when he raised his head and Duke’s tongue reached out and kissed his wet, tear stained face, the man smiled. He put his arms around Duke’s neck and moved to sit next to Duke on the floor where they sat in silence for the next five minutes.

As I watched this scene unfold, I was near tears myself. This dog who had built in fears of large men was sitting next to a pained individual who was leaning on Duke for support. After about fifteen minutes, the man got up and sat on the sofa, but left his hand on Duke’s head. Duke did not move. Jokingly the man said he owed Duke a couple pounds of dog biscuits for letting him hold onto him. I replied that Duke gave him what we humans wish we could give – that high level of unconditional love and understanding.

Sometimes, long moments of silence can seem awkward for therapists or clients, but to allow a client the time to just cuddle with a dog…where there is no pressure or feelings of obligation to speak….it can allow the client the time needed to process or just sit for a moment and experience his emotions. He can just “be.” At this moment, he is not sitting alone, potentially uncomfortable with the therapist waiting to determine when to speak or who will be the first to speak. The bond that is formed here between the dog and the client just cannot be done at the same level between therapist and client, but it can open the client up to the therapist for the healing process to begin.

After that incident, I knew that Duke was a therapy dog, without degrees, he earned the role of my assistant. He has never missed a day coming to the office. Small children lay on him; adults let him lie on their feet. Everyone that comes in will say hi to Duke before addressing me. Duke has shown everyone who enters my office the love that so many times one may never experience in life. He understands when someone doesn’t want him near, but eventually will work his way into their hearts. Duke allows children to walk him along with me and our new therapy dog, Troy. Troy is learning the ropes and he copies whatever Duke does. He greets people at the door, and escorts them to the session room. He then lies down and waits for us to be finished and will walk the client back to the front reception room. I could not imagine my practice without them.”

Amy Johnson
Guest Blogger


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