She touched him softly and smiled ~
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dante, an 8 year old Belgian Tervuren, and I, a professional dog trainer, have been a Delta Society Pet Partners team for about 5 years. Dante has earned many American Kennel Club awards in Obedience, Rally and Agility; his most favorite venue is Agility. He has also been trained in Herding and Tracking. Dante has been approved to work in complex areas and has a great love for children of all ages, so we chose to volunteer with the Seattle/King County Humane Society in their Dog Safety program for schools. During the school year we visit at least one school a week with the MaxMobile and meet children from Kindergarten up to high school age.

The Seattle/King County Dog Safety program is designed to teach children how to properly greet dogs and their people. We teach the children to always ask before approaching a dog and where it is okay to touch a dog. We often meet children that are afraid of dogs due to a bite, or other frightening incident. Several months ago, we met a young child from Serbia that had been attacked by a pack of feral dogs that lived in the forest near her home. She had several scars from injuries that occurred during the attack and was very afraid of Dante. She thought that he looked like a wolf and preferred to stay in the back of the classroom, away from Dante. As we talked about dog safety and the other children started petting Dante, she could see that he was friendly and enjoyed being in their classroom. He performed a few tricks and the children laughed and asked for more. As Dante moved among the children, the young girl moved closer to him. After about twenty minutes, she asked if she could touch him on his back. As she approached Dante, he became very quiet and sat, turning his head away from her and wagging his tail. She touched him softly and after a few moments talked to him very quietly; Dante licked her hand. As we were leaving a while later, she told me that “Dante is a nice wolf” and wanted to know if she could visit him again. She was still afraid of dogs, but meeting Dante gave her a different vision of dogs and she was willing to give them another chance. Dante’s quiet greeting and friendliness put a smile on her face that came from her heart.

When visiting with older children and young adults, we teach them to always treat animals with respect and kindness. This age group often has questions about dog care, behavior and training. It is always fun to show them how to teach a dog a trick and explain how to do so with kindness rather than punishment when the dog does not understand what we want him to do. Their questions are often well thought out and always interesting. A young man at one of the middle schools wanted to know if I could train his little sister to behave as well as Dante who had been in a sit stay for about 20 minutes. Many of the students want to know if I can tell them how to train their dogs in some very basic behaviors. It is always surprises me to see the surprise on their faces when they realize that a dog is highly intelligent and can be trained to assist people in many, many ways. We often discuss dogs that can detect cancer, search and rescue dogs, bomb detection dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, and therapy and service dogs of all types. Dante will often retrieve an object that they select or go through a series of sits, downs, stands, and come to me all directed by hand signals, rather than voice commands. Dante’s demonstrations of these exercises and other “tricks” gives them greater understanding and empathy for the creatures in their lives that walk on four legs, rather than two.

In working with these children, it is my hope that Dante and I can give them a better understanding of the nature of dogs and our relationships with all animals. If we can teach the children empathy for the animals in our care, we are a step closer to teaching them empathy for each other.

Dee Carlson
Guest Blogger

Photo (C)2003 Creative Indulgence, all rights reserved.

Going to the dogs... and cats, parakeets, gerbils
Monday, March 29, 2010

We do love our pets, that's for sure.

If any proof is needed, just take a look at statistics released recently by Packaged Facts and reported in MediaPost's Marketing Daily. Even in the worst recession in decades, spending on pet products and services increased 5 percent -- up $2.5 billion last year to total $53 billion.

My household has certainly contributed to that increase. Some spending last year on Loki, our 9-year old black Lab --
* A tooth absess and tooth extraction ($2,200)
* A fractured vertabrae disc, thankfully healed now ($2,000)
* Ongoing skin allergies, requiring vet and alergist and dermatologist treatments ($1,200)

My Oxford Health Plan doesn't cover Loki, and the IRS won't let me include those medical expenses in my Deductibles.

But that's ok -- Loki is our third child, and he's the only one who hasn't left home after college. He's always there, happy to see us when we come home, regardless of if we've been away for five minutes or five hours. He greets us, tail wagging wildly. (OK, so the wagging tail has claimed a few glasses that it's knocked off the cocktail table. But it's not like he did it on purpose.)

Pets as kids -- that's a major factor in the strength of the pet market. "The pet-parent sentiment has never been higher," says the editor of Packaged Facts. "The human/animal bond is an excellent insulator against recessionary cutbacks." So strong, in fact, that the publications expects sales of pet products and services to jump another 35 percent by 2014, hitting $72 billion.

Many pet owners, says the report, are unlikely to cut back significantly on pet spending, and in many cases would only do so after cutting back on their own needs. It's equally true across the economic spectrum. Pet owners who have cut back in other areas continue to spend on small indulgences for their pets, like biscuits, treats and toys.

Although "restraint" is the word that characterizes how many of us now shop, it doesn't always apply to the 61 million pet-owning households in terms of what they spend on their nearly 400 million pets.

We hear talk about how the 20-somethings will lead us out of the recession with their spending, but pet owners will be right there with them.

David Reich
Guest Blogger

Bobbi left her paw prints on my heart ~
Friday, March 26, 2010
William Barnes (Boomer) and I became friends through our various animal welfare advocacy endeavors around the globe. While we were chatting online the other day, he mentioned believing in the human-animal connection and how he’s experienced a strong bond with all the animals that have come into in his life. Here’s one story he shared about a Staffie dog bringing people together.

When Bobbi, a rescue dog, entered Boomer’s life she was barely two months old. She’s a Staffordshire Terrier who has won the hearts of all who have been lucky enough to cross paths with this sweet ambassador of the pit breed of dogs. She came into this world a beautiful little puppy but her life in the beginning was anything but easy.

Bobbi was brought to a training facility that Boomer was associated with for housetraining. After a couple of weeks she returned home and was promptly brought back because she had an accident in the house. Already her good luck was as thin as a razor. She spent a couple more weeks in the facility and started to show signs of mange. The facility operator was in denial about the mange and it continued getting worse. Finally she was taken to a veterinarian where she was diagnosed with mange and was given some medication. Bobbi needed the medicine at regular intervals. Intervals the facility could not meet so Boomer and his wife took Bobbi to their private home so they could take care of her medical needs. During this time Bobbi was given up by her owner and so without knowing it Boomer became a foster parent!

They began looking for a permanent home for Bobbi and came close a couple of times but the mange was getting worse and it was very detrimental to finding her a home. Finally she became almost bald but she was still a cute little puppy so Boomer thought someone would want her.

Time passed and things were not looking good for Bobbi. The cute puppy stage of her life was almost over, and still had full-blown mange which was slowly improving. It was beginning to look desperate for her until one day someone saw a picture of her that Boomer’s wife had posted - they wanted to meet Bobbi; mange and all!

It was love at first sight ~ when Giovanna saw Bobbi she wanted her right then and there.

Boomer told me, “I could have taken Bobbi to her new home that day but I called Giovanna and told her that it would be a couple of days before I could bring Bobbi to her. She had given us such joy in the time she lived with us that we needed a few days to tell her how much we truly loved her and to somehow say goodbye and thank her for all the joy she gave us.”

On December 23, 2008, he took Bobbi to her ‘furever’ home. As he left her there, Bobbi stood on the porch with a look that seemed to say ‘hey dude, why are you leaving me here?’

“With a lump in my throat I turned and walked away feeling my heartstrings pulling with every step. It was a mixture of sadness and happiness. It had been such a struggle for Bobbi to find her final home. I was so happy for her but I knew we would miss her very much.

Well, it turns out that I don’t have to miss Bobbi nearly as much as I thought I would. Her new parents became friends of ours and we see her often. Every time we do she is big a ball of happy dog with her tail wagging nonstop, dog smiling, and always has a few good licks on my face thrown in for good measure. And every time we see her my heart reminds me that Bobbi has left her paw prints there.

Bobbi gave us unconditional love and also brought two strangers into our lives who’ve now become close friends of ours. What a priceless gift of friendship and love this dog has given four humans.”

The human-animal connection – a very powerful bond!


P.S. William Barnes is the owner and founder of Acme K9 Services. He is a professional dog trainer and animal behavior consultant living in San Diego, California.

Faces light up when Tucker arrives!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tucker is a 6-year old English Springer Spaniel with a great, loving disposition. He is a true love-bug. He even fetches the paper every day at the end of the driveway. "Because of the joy he brings our family, I wanted to share it with others, says Paula Montes. He has just so much to give."

While working at a public library in the Children's room, Paula learned about dogs who visit libraries for the kids to read to. This program allows reluctant readers to gain confidence in literacy. Tucker seemed perfect. She pitched the idea, was approved and they began "Time with Tucker", a monthly program for children to read to Tucker. With a friend like Tucker who doesn't judge, laugh or criticize, children learn to read with confidence. This program began three years ago at the Farmington Library and has become a huge success with a waiting list of children to see Tucker each month. Tucker visits monthly seeing children from 18 months to 12 years of age.

Each child gets an individual one-on-one time to read to Tucker, pictures are taken and they receive a certificate. Tucker concludes his time with each child performing a few tricks, including saying "I Love you".

About a year ago, a friend told Paula that she was visiting a local nursing home with her dog and together they decided to take the Delta Society Pet Partners Team Training course.

Because of Tucker's personality, he was a perfect candidate to visit the elderly as well. So after passing the evaluation with Delta Society and the steps to become Pet Partners, Tucker and Paula began to visit a nursing home each week. They are assigned four Alzheimer patients who need visits. Paula told me, "It's amazing the work Tucker does. Tucker senses what each client needs and gets to work.

It might be placing his chin on their lap, having the patient brush him or even feed him a treat. Their faces light up when he walks into the room.

Becoming registered Pet Partners was a great way to validate our work together. I feel that it has bonded our relationship and the course taught me valuable tools and skills to use when visiting either children or the elderly. I am happy to be a member of the Delta Society Pet Partners program and plan to continue my work with Tucker at a local Children's Hospital on the pediatric oncology unit.

I love being with Tucker and touching people's lives. Delta Society provides great support and encouragement to us."

Tucker and Paula are providing comfort, encouragement, joy and support to children and seniors each week. THANKS for all your efforts.


Belle's Star - a story of inspiration for 'life after abuse'
Monday, March 22, 2010
One day about 15 years ago, I walked into the central office of the humanities department of San Juan College, where I am the program director of KSJE FM, public radio. The head of humanities wife> Laura, sat with a beautiful little dog on her lap. Falling instantly in love with its huge eyes, I asked if I could hold it. She said yes and I gathered the little ball of golden fur into my arms.

Laura told me she had taken the dog away from a drunk who was beating her at a gas station. I looked at the dog's black muzzle, exquisite pointed ears, her delicate white feet, and her sassy, stub of a tail and wondered how anybody could be so cruel to a creature with such a sweet face. It resembled a fox's. The little body I was holding felt sturdy like a Red Heeler's. The thought of anyone desecrating it brought tears to my eyes. I asked Laura why she had brought the dog into the office. She her household had too many pets, and this one needed a home. I said I'd take her.

The dog was sweet and shy when Laura's husband Chris brought her to me. I named her after a very gentle opera singer I once interviewed, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. Dame Kiri had come to New Mexico to sing with the New Mexico Symphony. She who could have sung in any opera house she wished said, "I hope the Albuquerque audiences like me." It takes a lot to shut a reporter up, and that comment did the trick to this one. The wistful pleading gaze the little dog turned on me after Chris put her in my living room and walked out the door brought the incident with Dame Kiri to mind. The dog could have no other name.

Kiri slowly explored my house over the next few days. At first, she barely let me touch her, but eventually she learned to trust me. When friends came over, she'd hide from the women and snarl at tall men. I would gather her in my arms, pet her and tell her everything would be okay. Gradually she learned to trust the people around me. Soon she was a regular puppy, chewing stuff, escaping the yard, not making it outside. But I only had to tell her once after she did something wrong and she never did it again.

She learned to sit, stay, and come very fast. I taught her to roll over for a dog cookie. One day I had just measured her food into its bowl when the phone rang. Getting involved in the conversation, I set her bowl on the counter and turned away from her. Next thing, I heard clunk, clunk, clunk. I turned to discover her rolling over and over all the way to the entrance to the living room. When she got there, she rolled back. Naturally, I interrupted the phone call to feed her. Later that evening, I was engrossed in a TV program. She pawed me, and when I only half responded, that little squirt rolled over to get my attention. Don't tell me dogs can't think.

I got her a companion, a setter Lab cross named Ben. They communicated with each other in ways I could never figure out. Ben loved to be outside and would spend hours romping in the yard. Kiri always knew when he wanted to come in, but I didn't always. Sometimes they had doggie arguments, standing nose to nose growling. After a while, they'd step back, shake themselves and wag their tails. They often touched each other on the nose, as if they were kissing.

Reel forward a few years. I gradually had worked my way into the creative writing community in my little town of Farmington. A sturdy fireplug of a woman with iron gray hair named Gwynne Spencer lived just over the Colorado border from us. She wrote for kids and did art therapy projects with trouble youngsters. If a sick animal existed in the universe, she'd find it, nurse it, and seek a home for it. I told her about Kiri and Ben.

She said, "You know, Kiri's story would be a great one for abused kids who aren't ready to read about humans who have been abused, but need something to help them get their feelings out. Write a story from Kiri's point of view."

Fascinated by the idea of understanding life as a dog, I read about their keen senses of hearing and smell; their abilities as service, police, therapy, and companions, and set to work. "Belle's Star" with Kiri as the central character and Ben in a supporting role, came out in August 2009. The story empowers youngsters 8-12 to cope with life's tough stuff. It tries to teach them that while they may not be able to help what the world does to them, they can choose how to respond to it. Belle was nominated for a New Mexico Book Award in 2009 and it won a Mom's Choice Award for 2010. With "Belle's Star' comes an activity book written by retired school counselor, and award winning journalist, Margaret Cheasebro, who lives in Farmington. Parents, teachers, counselors, and youth organizations to use to discuss issues important to becoming a responsible adult. "Belle's Star" is illustrated by nationally known artist, John Cogan .

Ben has gone whenever good dogs go when they finish their lives here, but Kiri is still very much with me. Through all the writing and editing of Belle, Kiri has come and laid her head on my lap wile I sit at the computer. She attends book signings with me. Because of her, I am having a wonderful adventure I never would been able to enjoy had I not walked into the humanities office at San Juan College one particular day. I hope I am helping some kids who need guidance, and providing a fun story for others. Kiri and I have a special relationship. I give her shelter and love; she returns love and inspiration. I have never felt like I owned Dame Kiri. Laura entrusted her to me. Someone Up There made her do that for a purpose. I will always cherish my little fox faced girl. When she joins Ben, I shall always have her memory.

Connie Gotsch
Guest Blogger

Jimmy Jet is not disabled, just differently-abled….
Friday, March 19, 2010

As a long time cat lover and certified veterinary technician, I am very aware of the magic that exists between people and animals. My experience with therapy cats began many years ago when I was living and working in Pennsylvania. A beloved client suffered a stroke and was relocated to an assisted living home. With the few words he could speak, he asked that his Siamese cat be brought to see him. This wasn't possible for several reasons so I volunteered to bring my Siamese cat Violet instead. Violet was a lively, opinionated yet gentle cat, with a distinctive voice.

We decided to try taking her for a visit. My hope that Violet might be good at this was based on her behavior in the car and visits to the veterinarian. Nothing seemed to ruffle this gal and she always sought out attention. On her first visit, Violet acted like she was born to serve. She would snuggle up in bed as a comfort or provide laughs as she cruised down the hall in Colin's wheelchair. If she could have done the parade wave she would have. Not only did Violet provide much needed snuggles and laughter, she was a help with Colin's physical therapy. Colin would dangle a piece of rope for Violet and she would chase after it. While physical therapy was tiring for Colin, he seemed to have boundless energy for playing with Violet. Violet and I eventually passed our Delta Society evaluation with flying colors to become a registered Pet Partners team.

After we moved to the Pacific Northwest, Violet sadly passed away of age related causes. I felt a void in not having a cat partner for visits. Little did I know, it was just a matter of time until a new partner showed up in my life.

It was a few weeks before Christmas, and a kind lady had just rescued three young, sick kittens and brought them to our local clinic. One of the kittens needed immediate surgery to remove his infected and painful eyes so an email appeal went out for a foster home for the kitten after surgery. We named him Jimmy Jet and brought him home. I watched Jimmy for a long time that first night, listening to a little voice in my head that told me I had just met one of the most extraordinary animals I would ever be fortunate enough to know in my lifetime.

The weeks went by and Jimmy thrived in our care. We were so attached to him and him to us that we decided to adopt him. Two years later, he is now the class clown and love of our lives. Jimmy and I have just passed our evaluation and we are a registered Delta Society Pet Partners team. Jimmy Jet and I go to schools and talk to children about the fate of homeless animals and what life is like for a blind cat. The children are fascinated by him and always ask for him to come back. It is a joy for me to share the message of care and compassion for all creatures with Jimmy Jet by my side. And as we explain to people, Jimmy Jet is not disabled, just differently-abled!

Randi Golub is a certified veterinary technician and owns her own business, CatNurse on Call in Eugene, OR. Randi provides a wide range of services and specializes in caring for elderly, diabetic and terminally ill cats and dogs.

Jimmy Jet and Randi are a perfect example of how pets and people have a unique and powerful connection. Together they are helping children learn how important and wonderful animals are in our lives.

Thanks for sharing your story Randi!

Have a shamrocking day …
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

As my darling husband, of Irish descent, said this morning:
T' is a great day t' be green! We're all Irish on St. Paddy’s Day…including our beloved pets!

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

May your home be bright with cheer,
May your cares all disappear,
May contentment come your way,
And may laughter fill your day.

May each and every one of you ~ & the animals in your life~ find the rainbow's end today!

Erin Go Bragh,

The happiest 10 x 10 space
Monday, March 15, 2010

This past weekend I spent much of my time at the Delta Society information booth at the Seattle Kennel Club Show. With many Pet Partners teams coming and going, there were lots of dogs there to give me 'luvins' - and that always makes me happy. (Teams only worked 2 hour shifts to ensure the dogs didn't get too tired or stressed.)

Tails were wagging constantly, and if the dogs weren't being patted, they carefully watched the aisle waiting to go up and greet the next passerby - after all these are therapy dogs.

I was once again impressed by the human-end of the leashes. The people part of the teams were always 'in tune' with their dogs. They were shining examples of what being your dog's best advocate is all about.

At times the area around our booth was packed with lots of people and noise, and other dogs walking past. Our Pet Partners always kept a watchful eye on their surroundings, helping to re-position their dogs so they were safe while they talked with people inquiring about Delta Society. I think they must have eyes in the back of their heads.

When people in wheelchairs stopped to get their 'dog fix' - the Pet Partners got on their knees so they could talk to the person closer to eye level, and knew exactly how to guide their dog to make it easy for the person to pat the dog.

It was nice to meet so many people who wanted to learn about Delta Society - and once again I was thrilled to see the interest from many wanting to explore how they too might become Pet Partners.

As I walked in early Sunday morning, I was walking past the breed booths, each filled with several dogs and their handler. However, as I was approaching the West Highland Terrier booth, one dog caught my eye. She looked directly at me, started wagging her tail and began walking up to me. Of course I had to stop and say hi. As I was talking with her 'dad', low and behold I learned that his wife is registered to take the Pet Partners Team Training Workshop in April and I was patting a likely future Pet Partner.

Thank you to all who came by our booth and to the many Pet Partners teams who dedicate so much of their time to helping others!


Just a "Regular Dog"
Friday, March 12, 2010

"What does Harli do when she's not at work as a Delta Society Pet Partner?" I get asked this a lot when we visit at the hospital. My answer is simple: "She's just a Regular Dog". She runs and poops (okay I don't tell them this part) in the yard, goes with us on our walks, sleeps in front of the fire, "talks" to the neighbors as they walk by, sheds all over the house, nudges me to take her potty just when I've settled in comfy & cozy on the couch, tracks in dirt & mud, ignores my commands when she's "not in the mood", drools puddles when there's a chance she's going to get a treat, and gets underfoot in the kitchen having to be told multiple times "out".

I think it makes people feel good to know that this "perfect, well-mannered" pup can also make a mess, misbehave & just do what dogs do. I think it makes them feel better about their own pets as well. But, is she just a "regular dog"? I don't know... What is a "regular dog"?

When I'm sick, she hangs out with me. When I'm sad, she cuddles with me and licks my hand. When I come home, whether it's been 10 hours or 10 minutes, she greets me with her duck & satiates me with a waggling tail & wiggling butt; at that moment, I'm her most important person. When I'm crabby, she's not afraid to approach me & nudge me with her cold, wet nose, somehow sensing that as I pet her my mood will soften.

We drove to California for Thanksgiving to be with family. Two days down, two days to visit, and two days back. Our "regular dog" made the drive with us. In the wee hours of the following Saturday, we got the news that my younger sister died. I flew to California while my "regular dog" stayed home. On Thursday she arrived, again via car, with my husband. It had been a hard week. When we checked into the motel late that night, my husband, who had just driven for 15 hours straight...alone... said, "Do you need to talk?" I was exhausted by that time. It had been my day to not be the rock my family thinks I am. All I could do was cry and no words would form. So we went to bed.

My poor husband was asleep in a minute and a half. I lay there, thinking & crying, unable to put substance to all I was feeling; unsure if I could "be there" for my mom, nieces and nephews the next day; and unaware of what my "regular dog" was doing for me. Nothing... and everything. I didn't need to speak, I didn't need to give her anything or do anything for her. She just was. There. Snuggled into my side, allowing me to drape my arm across her, feel her heart beating and her chest rise & fall in a pattern. Normalcy in the midst of absolute abnormality. Allowing me to do whatever it was I needed to do, or not do, at that moment in time. Absorbing all my sorrow and weariness while my tears wet her fur.

And the next day? She was just a "regular dog". Getting in the way as we readied the house for all the family that would be coming on Saturday. Tolerating a variety of emotions from countless people - noise, chaos, yelling, crying. Offering a nudge to go potty at inconvenient times. Shedding fur everywhere. Getting under foot as we prepared our meals, having to be told countless times "Out". Offering herself, unconditionally, as a calm within our storm.

Like I said, she's just a "Regular Dog".

Thank you Diana Doolittle for sharing your story with us. And, to Harli and you for bringing smiles and comfort to the folks you visit!

One remarkable cat…One special skill….One life-changing journey!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

At first glance, Oscar seems like a typical cat—a handsome but aloof black-and-white tabby with a penchant for naps in the sun. For almost five years he has lived among patients with advanced dementia at the Steere House Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island. But Oscar made international headlines when Dr. David Dosa published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that revealed the cat’s unusual talent: Oscar can predict when patients are going to die. In his book, “MAKING ROUNDS WITH OSCAR: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat, Dr. Dosa illuminates Oscar’s amazing gift.

A few hours before a resident passes away, Oscar climbs onto his or her bed. He purrs and refuses to leave until the patient dies. His predictions are always right—he never lingers unless the person is within a few hours of death. His unusual talent provides an early warning system, giving caregivers precious time to alert family members that their loved one is near the end of life. Steere House residents and their families are grateful to Oscar for the comfort and companionship he provides during this difficult time.

When he first heard about Oscar’s uncanny ability, Steere House doctor David Dosa, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and one of just 7,000 geriatricians in the country, was skeptical. After all, how can an animal accurately predict when a patient would die when trained doctors can’t? But Oscar’s perfect record of eleventh-hour bedside vigils, coupled with Dosa’s conversations with staffers and families of patients, convinced the doctor that there is something very special about the third floor’s smallest resident. Oscar has a calling as a caregiver.

MAKING ROUNDS is the story not only of this mysterious cat, but also of Steere House itself, its staff, residents, and families. Dosa interviewed colleagues and family members whose loved ones passed away with Oscar by their side. Their stories all carry a common, uplifting element: Oscar. While Dr. Dosa portrays dementia and all of its difficulties, he provides hope and advice for caregivers who are coping with a loved one’s decline. The book will inspire readers to discuss the critical but very difficult issue of end-of-life care.

Some questions many people have regarding Oscar:

Q: Is there a scientific explanation for Oscar’s behavior?
It’s possible that Oscar perceives a pheromone or another smell emitted by a dying patient. Dying cells release sweet-smelling ketones and other cellular by-products that may be appreciated by an animal with a keen sense of smell.

Additionally, animal behavior experts have speculated that Oscar’s talent is behavioral—that he’s imitating the nurses and staff at Steere House. Perhaps Oscar understands when he is needed and simply wishes to be part of the team that delivers compassionate end-of-life care to the dying.

Q: How do animals affect patients in late stages of dementia?
In late stages of dementia, patients are unable to care for themselves. Often, they have lost the ability to walk and to communicate verbally. For close family members, the biggest tragedy is often when the patient is unable to recognize them. Nevertheless, though an advanced dementia patient might lose the ability to verbally communicate, there are certain innate stimuli such as music, babies, and animals like Oscar that still seem to reverberate. Even for those with the severest forms of dementia, the presence of animals reduces agitation and symptoms of depression.

Q: Have you learned about other pets or animals that seem to have a sixth sense about comforting the dying?
Although Oscar is unique, he is certainly not alone in what he does. Since Oscar’s story made international news I’ve heard from hundreds of pet owners about their special animals, including other health care facilities that have their own “Oscar.” These emails and letters have made me appreciate just how important animals are to people as companions. They truly do seem to have a sixth sense about knowing when we need them the most.

Today, Oscar remains un-phased by all the interest in his book. He continues his “work” at Steere House comforting patients and their families.

Sincere thanks to David for sharing Oscar’s story with us ~ David and I both attended McLean High School (in McLean, VA – Go Highlanders) and he attended George Washington University where my father received a graduate degree as did one of my sons. It’s been a pleasure getting to know David and learn more about his impressive, compassionate work with patients suffering from dementia (as my mother did)….and, of course – to hear about Oscar. Oscar’s story is heartfelt, inspiring and full of the humor and pathos of life in the balance.


The photograph of Oscar with Dr. David Dosa was taken by Janet Teno, and the photograph of Oscar was taken by Al Weems.

Only in Delta Society's office
Monday, March 08, 2010
When people come to Delta Society's office, they always comment how nice it is to see the staff's dogs, cats and rabbits that are joining them in their work day. It brings a calming but spirited energy to the office.

Last Friday though, if you happened to swing by mid morning, you would have seen something a bit more unusual. Marisco, a therapy llama, was in our lobby with his human Pet Partner teammate Nikki Kuklenski at his side. I have to say, it was pretty funny seeing the UPS man look through the glass entry door doing a double take of seeing this gorgeous animal - a species that usually is typically seen in outdoor settings – standing so regally in front of the reception desk.

Marisco and Nikki were here to greet visitors from Botswana. About 40 government and civic leaders from Botswana stopped in as part of their trip to the U.S. hosted by the Performance Center.They were invited to hear several presentations from Delta Society staff about how when your work is your passion, great changes in the community occur and innovation unfolds. The group also visited several large corporations in the Pacific Northwest to gain a well-rounded understanding of how organizations – corporate and non-profit - thrive and grow in the US.

While so many of us are familiar with dogs as therapy animals, many don't realize that many other species can also make great Pet Partners. The uniqueness can help bring a whole new dimension to any interaction. This was never clearer than watching our visitors from Botswana. When they first came in they had the opportunity to meet several dogs. Most were interested and you could sense a slightly happier glow about the group when they spotted the dogs. But, when Marisco walked in, the gleeful energy intensified even more. Everyone was so excited and couldn't wait for their opportunity to pet him and get their picture taken next to this majestic being. Nikki has even trained Marisco to give people 'kisses' – if they wish. Now, that's a photo opp that just can't be missed – if you are 'brave enough'.

Delta Society registers people with their cats, horses, mini-horse, rabbits, guinea pigs, pot-bellied pigs, and other domesticated animals – including a few very well-mannered and socialized llamas. We collaborate with experts working with the different species to develop species-specific evaluation criteria. To learn more about the qualities that make a great Pet Partner (therapy animal), click here.

Thanks Nikki for bringing Marisco by! I can never get enough of seeing him.


Audible sighs….
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Angela Mourer and I have known each other since 1973. Ah, the stories I could tell about our antics in college and while in our mid 20’s ….but I digress :)

This is Angie’s story about her precious little therapy dog Misty…a tiny five pound toy poodle ~

Misty came to us through a rather circuitous route, from a show breeder who did not want her because she was born with bilateral luxating patella. We took her in with our hearts and wallet open. Soon after arriving at our home, we began the series of three surgeries necessary to repair her little knees. During the nights of sleeping on the floor with her, feeding her meals off my fingers, giving her water with an eyedropper, taking her to the yard with a sling to hold up her back end, she and I formed a unique bond, one unlike any I‘d experienced with our previous dogs. Also during that time, she went everywhere I went, as I couldn’t bear to put a cone around her little neck to prevent her from bothering her stitches. In the course of traveling with me every moment of every day, she became an extraordinarily well socialized, calm, and confident little dog.

When out and about with me, people were automatically drawn to this darling little cream colored poodle with the beautiful black eyes, so expressive and trusting. People asked if they could hold her, and I always allowed it, as long as the individual was seated next to me. That’s when the magic started. Whenever I would pass Misty to someone, she would automatically settle right in and find a spot to rest her head, often on a shoulder or under a neck, and sometimes in an armpit. People burrowed their faces into her soft neck and rested their heads on hers. They issued audible sighs, expressing the comfort and joy this little dog had brought to them. A few times, tears were shed into her lovely coat. I never asked where the tears came from; I just knew they had to be shed and hoped that Misty had drawn the end of a sorrow from that person’s hurting soul.

Once Misty was fully healed from her surgeries, there was no reason to continue with my practice of taking her everywhere I went, but I did. She became the “church dog” where I worked, where she had a tiny bed on my desk. When parishioners came to the church to volunteer or meet, they always came to the office first to see if Misty could join in their gatherings. It was at the church, as I watched Misty work her magic on one of the elders of the church; I decided she was uniquely qualified to become a therapy dog. And, so, she did.

After 6 months of training she proudly wore her tiny vest, which identified her as a therapy dog, to nursing homes once a week, where she mingled with the residents in the activity rooms or she’d lie on the beds of those in their rooms. She was called to a local home for the deaf to try to bring a young lady out of her shell. She succeeded in that and many other missions as a therapy dog. For two years, she and I had a weekly schedule of visits and every week she soothed and loved many people. I could tell, though, that she was tiring of her work and needed a break. She did not mind being left at home to lie in the sun, and was more than happy to simply bask in the love of her family.

After a few months, I began to think about taking Misty on a nursing home visit to see if she was rested enough to return to therapy work. Before that plan could take hold, though, we adopted Cassy, a young dog who had been abused. As a result of her difficult start in life, she had terrific separation anxiety that her foster mother reported was soothed by the presence of another dog. So, Misty became a therapy dog for a dog, as she helped our dear Cassy girl heal and adjust. Now, they are inseparable. ~

Big hugs and thanks for sharing Misty’s story, Angie. We look forward to your next blog about how Misty was able to heal another dog’s broken soul and help a few people along the way….hint, hint, get typing girlfriend! :)


PS. Delta Society connects Pets and People ~ here’s information about how YOU can become a Pet Partners team with your pet.


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