That’s my dad, featured for the month of September, in the 2014 Caring Canines Calendar.
Produced by the AMDA Foundation, the calendar features 12 outstanding therapy pets from across the country, pictured with those with whom they work and for whom they provide companionship.
The therapy pictured dog with my 89-year-old dad is Henry Higgins, who works where my father now resides, at Mission Palms Health and Rehabilitation in Mesa, Arizona.
I wrote last year about the bond they’ve developed there.
The 2014 Caring Canines Calendar (you can click the link to order) is the fifth one put out by the foundation, a nonprofit arm of the American Medical Directors Association. Proceeds from the calendar support foundation programs.
Each month features a pet (mostly dogs, but one bird makes an appearance) who is providing therapy or companionship at a long-term care facility.
As the calendar notes, “The presence of animals is becoming increasingly popular in long term care residential facilities, and for good reason — studies have documented that pets help reduce depression, loneliness, and anxiety; improve mental function; and lower blood pressure and heart rate.”
The calendar contains photographs and stories selected from the submissions contributed by residents and staff members of long term care facilities.
Henry belongs to Christina Higgins, a physical therapist at Mission Palms.
I first wrote a piece for ohmidog! after meeting them during a visit last year.
That old post is one of many that got gobbled up or lost in space when we recently changed servers for this website. (Data migration is as dangerous as it sounds, and can lead to broken links, also painful.)
But here’s a piece of it I found:
As my soon-to-be 89-year-old father continues on a long uphill road to recovery, there’s a dog helping him get there.
Somehow, that makes me – being, until last week, on the other side of the country – feel more comfortable. More important, I’m guessing it makes him — being a hard core dog lover — feel more that way, too, as well as more motivated, and more at home in a strange place.
My dad became ill last year, entering a hospital with stomach problems and suffering a heart attack while there that would lead to an induced coma of several weeks. Once he came out of it, he had to relearn things like eating and walking, and — having a lot more fight in him than most people — he made great progress during his stay in a skilled nursing facility in Mesa called Mission Palms.
He was fortunate enough to be assigned to a therapist named Christina, and her dog, Henry Higgins. Henry, now about a year and half, has been working at Mission Palms since he was three months old, and the first thing I noticed about him was how he made everyone’s face light up upon seeing him, both patients and staff, and definitely my father’s.
For starters, they played some fetch, which required my father hoisting himself out of his wheelchair and throwing a tennis ball. My father did the work, but I think the anticipation on Henry’s face — as he sat there looking at him, patiently waiting — provided the encouragement. After that, a putting green was hauled out and my father tried to sink some putts, as Henry looked on.
Henry is a pointer-setter mix, with long brown hair from his tail to the top of his head, but short hair on his muzzle. Christina, who chose him from a friend’s litter, said “he was the biggest, ugliest one, just a big huge fur ball.”
Out of all the pups, she said, he seemed the most sociable and interested in humans.
I know surgeons and doctors probably deserve most of the thanks, and are the main reason my father is still around. But as for right now, amid all other uncertainties … I’m probably most grateful that he’s in the capable hands of a caring therapist and an encouraging dog. Thanks, Henry.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 20th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2014, amda foundation, animals, bill woestendiek, blood pressure, calendar, caring canines, caring canines calendar, christina higgins, dogs, health benefits, henry, henry higgins, loneliness, long term care, mental health, mission palms, nursing homes, parents, pets, photography, senior citizens, therapist, therapy, therapy dogs
Elle, a 5-year-old pit bull who helps children become more confident about reading, has been named the 2103 Hero Dog by the American Humane Association.
But it wasn’t just her listening skills that won her the honor. She also helps teach children about dog safety, and overcoming prejudice and stereotypes – “something a pit bull knows too much about,” the association noted in announcing the award.
The therapy dog and her owner started a reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales” that helps students at two North Carolina schools — Vaughan Elementary in Macon and Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids — become stronger readers. Students take turns reading out loud to Elle for 20 minutes.
“She provides confidence for students and a comforting ear,” Leah Brewer, 42, told TODAY.com.
Elle and the other finalists for the American Humane Association award attended a ceremony Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It will air as a 90-minute special on the Hallmark Channel on Oct. 30.
After a six-month natonwide search, 141 dogs from across the country were nominated. More than one million Americans cast votes for the eight finalists online. Those results, along with the choices of a panel of celebrity judges and animals activists, were combined to determine the winner.
Among other nominees were Carlos, an explosive detector dog who worked in Iraq and Afghanistan; John D, a rescue dog who uses his scenting capabilities to detect cancer in patients; Cassidy, a three-legged dog who visits rehabilitation centers to comfort children with disabilities; and Lola, a rescued guide dog who connects her deaf owner to the surrounding world.
“Choosing a top dog is difficult because they are all so terrific, but we are proud to announce Elle as the top American Hero Dog for 2013,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association.
“As an organization that for years has fought breed-specific legislation (BSL), we are also pleased to honor a breed that has been often been unjustly maligned. We hope that Elle’s story will help to underscore the many tremendously positive qualities of this breed.”
(Photo: American Humane Association)
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2013 hero dogs, aide, american humane association, animals, assistance, awards, carlos, cassidy, ceremony, disability, dog, dogs, elle, guide, hallmark, helps, hero dog awards, image, leah brewer, lola, macon, maligned, misconceptions, north carolina, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, reading, rescue, roanoke rapids, robin ganzert, special, stereotypes, students, tail wagging tales, therapy, therapy dog, working dogs
A pit bull mix, she served as an unofficial helper to her owner, a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. But when he moved to a new apartment, Layla, lacking documentation as a service dog, wasn’t allowed to live there.
Tim McGill began working to get Layla certified, and in the meantime asked some friends to look after his 3-year-old dog.
Now McGill has gotten the certification, but he can’t get his dog back.
McGill served in the Army in South Korea and Iraq and left the service with a brain injury, anxiety and flashbacks, KDKA in Pittsburgh reports.
A doctor recommended a dog, and — though Layla wasn’t a certified service dog — having her by his side helped, said McGill, a tattoo artist.
McGill says he moved to a Lawrenceville apartment to go to the Art Institute, but that, without any documentation that Layla was a service dog, she wasn’t permitted to live there.
So he asked a friend, Laura Stratemier, to watch over Layla until he could get her certified. In exchange, he offered to repay her with free tattoos for both her and her husband.
Stratemier admits she was only supposed to have Layla for two weeks, but said that as time went by — six months worth of it — she realized the dog was better off with her.
By the time the certification papers for the dog came through McGill, Stratemier was unwilling to give Layla back.
KDKA reports that local animal control officials are looking into the dispute.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 1st, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apartment, certification, certified, custody, dispute, dog, dogs, Laura Stratemier, layla, mix, move, ownership, pets, pit bull, pittsburgh, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, service, tattoo artist, tattoos, therapy, tim mcgill
There’s a new counselor on the staff at Loyola University in Chicago, and he’s helping students cope with everything from homesickness to the stress of final exams.
He’s a 5-year-old black Labrador retriever, named Tivo, and he’s on duty every day at the university’s Wellness Center.
Seeing a need for a therapy dog, Loyola last year asked Tops Kennels in Grayslake to help find a candidate. The kennel suggested Tivo, who, after some additional training, became a certified therapy dog.
He’s on duty from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m, and lives with the Rev. Justin Daffron, Loyola’s associate provost for academic services.
Already immensely popular with students, college officials expect Tivo to stay busy in the week ahead, the Chicago Tribune reports. Final exams start today at Loyola, and Tivo has a way of helpling students, at least for a moment, shed some of the stress that builds up.
“They’ll come in, pet him, he’ll wag his tail, lick their faces, if they want their faces licked,” said Joan Holden, associate director of the center. “If you’re a dog lover, being with a dog makes you feel better. He’ll show his tummy, wag his tail — all the things to make you feel good.”
But Tivo doesn’t just sit in an office all day, according to an article about him in Inside Loyola.
“We use Tivo with patients for calming, for outreach in the residence halls, and to be sent out with a human counselor in hopes that students can come and pet the dog as a way to connect with the Wellness Center outside the office,” says Diane Asaro, the center’s director. “It is our first time trying it, and he has already gotten such a positive and wonderful response.”
Tivo also serves as a surrogate pet to the many students who are missing the dogs they left behind, noted David deBoer, associate director and clinical psychologist at the Wellness Center.
“Tivo really serves as a comfort, pleasure, and joy for college students; a friendly reminder of the comforts of home,” he said.
Students can keep track of where “Talk With Tivo” sessions are being held through his Facebook page.
(Photo: Tivo gives some counseling to student Marc Rosenbaum; by Mark Beane / Loyola University Chicago)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 29th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, chicago, colleges, counseling, dog, dogs, exams, final, homesickness, labrador, loyola, pets, retriever, stress, students, talk with tivo, therapy, therapy dogs, tivo, universities, university, wellness center
For as long as it keeps ticking, and however strong the attachments it already has are, it’s capable of finding new things to adore.
Which brings us to this sordid tale — one that is also partly uplifting, and, if you want to be all technical about it, also partly shoplifting.
My dog Ace has always been No. 1 in the eyes of my father, a lifelong dog-lover.
My dad was able to quickly detect what a special beast Ace truly is. Watching them snuggle on his couch when we visited always made my insides glow.
For years now, the first thing my father asks when he calls has always been, “How’s Ace?” The first thing he asked me when he came out of a coma, that followed a heart attack, that followed some stomach surgery, was “How’s Ace?” When I visited him in Arizona a few months ago, without Ace, the first thing he asked was, “Where’s Ace?”
Since his lengthy hospitalization, my dad has mostly resided in a skilled nursing facility in Mesa, where, at one point, he was having physical therapy sessions with a dog named Henry, who belongs to one of the therapists. While those sessions are no longer part of his daily regimen, he still sees Henry — full name Henry Higgins — regularly, and apparently they’ve grown quite attached.
According to my sources, after dinner one night last week, my father rolled into the therapy gym unnoticed and snuck off with a photo of Henry that hangs there, planning on taking it back to his sparsely furnished room. It was reportedly his second attempt to steal the framed photo. After getting caught the first time, rolling along the hallway with the picture in his lap, he stuffed it under his shirt the second time.
I found this news upsetting — not because my father was engaging in larcenous behavior, but because I’ve done my best to keep Ace first and foremost in his mind. I’ve made sure his room had a “Travels with Ace” calendar. For his birthday, I sent him a sweatshirt with a giant photo of Ace emblazoned on the front. I’ve supplied him — even though my father’s not doing any traveling — with an Ace travel mug.
For some reason, whatever else he forgets, even temporarily, I want him to remember Ace eternally.
I realize it is petty jealousy, and that it’s likely limited to me. Ace, in all probability, wouldn’t mind a bit that my father has another dog to entertain, comfort, calm, console and warm him.
And in truth, I am far more grateful than I am jealous when it comes to Henry, who I got to meet when I visited, and who is pretty special and wonderful himself.
On my dad’s 89th birthday, Henry was there; Ace and I weren’t.
I can understand my dad being smitten with Henry, and I’m glad he is. Dogs and love, if you ask me, are among the top five reasons to go on living. (The other three are books, music and pizza.)
It makes me want to get Ace — not to mention myself — out there for another visit.
Once he was confronted — when he was noticed, after the second attempted theft, with a bulge under his Maui t-shirt — my father confessed and revealed his ill-gotten bootie.
No charges were filed.
And the framed photo of Henry, according to Henry’s owner, will be placed in a new location:
My father’s room.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, aging, animals, bill woestendiek, dog, dogs, elderly, henry, henry higgins, jealousy, love triangle, mesa, nursing, pets, photo, physical therapy, stolen, therapy, therapy dog, william woestendiek
The ruling, issued by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, pertained to a mutt named Kayla, who — though not a service dog or a certified therapy dog — provided emotional support to her owner.
The complaint was brought against the owners of the Brighton Gardens building by Richard M. Blake, who was diagnosed with HIV infection more than two decades ago, according to the Boston Globe.
After his diagnosis, Blake isolated himself and rarely left the house.
“He was depressed, basically lounging around the apartment all day long, and his weight rose and blood pressure got out of control,’’ said Denise McWilliams, general counsel for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.
Blake’s doctor recommended a dog to help lift Blake’s mood and improve his mental and physical health.
“She’s just given me sort of a routine in my life,’’ Blake said of the boxer mix he got in 2008. “She’s given me a lot of joy. Animals just seem to make it hard for you to be in a bad mood … Ever since I have had her, the walks and the tons of exercise I do with her have helped.’’
Blake said his landlord gave him permission to get the dog, but two months later tenants were notified that a no-pet policy in their leases would be enforced.
After unsuccessful attempts to get the landlords to make an exception, Blake filed a complaint with the state commission in December, 2008.
In its ruling, the commission said that evidence “supports a finding that requiring Complainant to give up his dog would seriously jeopardize his emotional and physical well-being.’’
Posted by John Woestendiek April 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aids, assistance, brighton gardens, commission, discrimination, dogs, emotional, health, hiv/aids, housing, kayla, landlords, massachusetts, richard blake, rules, service, support, tenants, therapy
My favorite part of this news report is not the beginning, which dredges up recent footage about dog attacks to establish the pit bull’s reputation as violent and unpredictable.
It’s not the part where they shatter that stereotype, or at least put a dent in it, it by noting that — gasp! — pit bulls are being used as therapy dogs.
My favorite part is near the end, where a student reading to a pit bull stumbles over a word, and the dog’s owner, Lydia Zaidman — her chin resting on the dog’s back — offers some assistance.
“NAYSAYERS,” she says. “Do you want to know what that means?”
“Yeah, what?” the student replies.
“That’s people who say you can’t do something.”
A lot of people would say you can’t trust a pit bull, much less put them to work with children as therapy dogs, but a program in north Austin’s Gullett Elementary School is going a long way toward proving them wrong, according to TV news report from KXAN in Austin.
It’s hardly — despite the report’s exclamation points — the first time pit bulls have served as therapy dogs. Across the country, pit bulls — even one of Michael Vick’s former dogs — have been certified as therapy dogs. The therapy dog group Ace and I work with, Karma Dogs, recently qualified its first pit bull member. Zaidman, who’s president of ” Love-A-Bull ,” a nonprofit group that sticks up for the pit bull, has been taking her pit bull Mocha to the school for two years now.
What is unusual is that Zaidman’s therapy dog organization, called the Pit Crew, trains only pit bulls for therapy work. It’s believed to be the only program in the nation that does so.
Working with professional dog trainer Julie Eskoff, Zaidman recently concluded a training program designed to certify pit bulls for use in schools. The training program started with nine animals. Seven graduated, but two were soon sent home — not an unusual dropout rate for therapy dog qualification.
“They love people; they’re extremely tolerant of people.” Zaidman said of pit bulls. “Of course, each individual one has to be temperament tested and each one is an individual like any other dog. But in general, they temperament test very high. They really love people; they like to be around people and so they do really well.”
“They are the number one most abused dog in this country,” Zaidman told KXAN. “Abuse is going to lead to a problem, no question. Unfortunately, there are a lot of irresponsible owners out there and that’s going to lead to a problem, but they have to use everything from amphetamines to abuse to get them to fight. So the idea that they are meant to fight is a falsity.
“Unfortunately, there’s a cycle right now,” she added. “There’s a media image, just like there was for Dobermans in the 80s or German shepherds in the 70s and it’s a cycle that just keeps happening. The more misinformation that gets out there, the more people that are attracted to the wrong dog. What we’re trying to do is put a positive image out there so that the wrong people don’t continue to be attracted to the dog.
“It’s like any other prejudice. You know, you have to educate yourself as to the facts. Unfortunately, too many people read things on the Internet and they don’t bother to find out what the truth is, you know, bother to actually meet one.”
Zaidman seems not only to have her facts right, and a well-articulated message (she’s a lawyer, after all), but she’s proving it daily through deeds.
If only people like Baltimore’s Mickey, and all the other naysayers, would listen.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 30th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, austin, breeds, dogs, elementary, gullett, image, love-a-bull, lydia zaidman, mickey cucchiella, perception, pets, pit bull, pit crew, pitbull, pitbulls, reputation, schools, stereotype, stereotypes, temperament, texas, therapy, therapy dogs
At the Yale University Law Library, you can check out ”Legal Alchemy: The Use and Misuse of Science in the Law.” You can check out “The Supreme Court A to Z: A Ready Reference Encyclopedia.”
Or, you can check out Monty, a terrier mix whose mission, in an experimental program started this month, is to de-stress, during final exam time, the litigators of tomorrow.
You’d think a genius farm like Yale University would have figured out sooner — as some smaller and lesser known colleges have — that dogs can, physically and emotionally, help students through troubled or stressful times.
But, for the school whose mascot is an English bulldog named Handsome Dan, it’s better late than never.
In the pilot program, students can check out Monty – a 21-pound “certified library therapy dog” who provides 30-minute sessions of what ABCNews describes as “unconditional, stress-busting puppy love.”
“The interest in available slots has been high,” said Jan Conroy, a spokeswoman for Yale Law School.
In a March 10 memo, law librarian Blair Kauffman said she hoped the free, three-day pilot pet therapy program would be “a positive addition to current services offered by the library … It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being.” The memo directed students to the website of Therapy Dogs International for more information.
The school has yet to decide if the program will be ongoing. Likely, it being Yale Law School, there are liability concerns — the type that are known to paralyze bureaucracies and often limit the good dogs can do, based on mostly baseless fears.
Monty, for example, though he is said to be hypoallergenic, will hold his visits in a “designated non-public space” in the library to eliminate “potential adverse reactions from any library user who might have dog-related concerns.”
Concerns have also been expressed about the sign-up list for Monty being in a visible spot. That, the overly fearful fear, results in students having to expose their need for a mental health session — or at least some time with a dog — in public.
Monty — whose full name is General Montgomery – belongs to librarian Julian Aiken. And the pilot program got started after a Yale legal blog jokingly suggested making Monty available for checkout.
Therapy dogs have been introduced at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Oberlin College in Ohio and UC San Diego to help students get through the pressures of mid-terms and finals.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 25th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, exams, experimental, final, general montgomery, julian aiken, law school, law students, lawyers, legal, liability, librarian, library, mental health, mid term, monty, oberlin, pets, pilot, program, relief, stress, students, therapy, therapy dogs, tufts, university, yale
A dog who was dragged behind a car in Kentucky seven years ago now helps people who are dealing with an illness in their family.
Roadie, an 8-year-old beagle and a certified therapy dog, greets guests at the Hospital Hospitality House of Lexington, WKYT-TV reports. The facility provides temporary overnight accommodations to family and friends of patients in Lexington area hospitals.
“Everybody loves Roadie,” said Hospital Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Morgan. “Roadie knows people very well and she knows how to make them feel comfortable.”
In July of 2004, the beagle was dragged on the street behind a car in Pulaski County, losing an eye and nearly her life. Dennis Wayne Fitzpatrick, of Somerset, pled guilty to cruelty to animals and was fined
After the accident, volunteers at Hospitality House put in an application to adopt her. Morgan said that initially he wasn’t sure the house was the place for a dog.
“To my surprise I was wrong, it was a very good place for a therapy dog. Roadie has been a companion and a caring counselor to our guests,” he said. “She is so much like the people who stay with us — she’s been through a very difficult medical situation and she survived it.”
Posted by John Woestendiek February 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, beagle, car, dogs, dragged, dragging, families, health, hospital hospitality house, hospitality, hospitals, illness, injured, kentucky, lexington, one-eyed, patients, pets, recovery, roadie, therapy, therapy dogs, video
Given the endlessly rising popularity of dogs, and our increasing emotional attachment to them, medical researchers who use them for experiments can expect stronger and growing opposition to the practice from the public, a leading expert in canine-human interaction told a conference at Johns Hopkins University this week.
James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, was the keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The 30-year-old, non–profit center promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. It seeks ways to replace animals with non-animal methods, reduce the numbers of animals necessary, or refine methods to make them less painful or stressful to the animals involved
Serpell and other speakers both pointed out that after decades of declining, the use of dogs in medical research has increased in the last couple of years.
U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that the number of dogs used in medical research and testing dropped from 200,000 in 1973 to 66,000 in 2007, said Tanya Burkholder, chief of the Small Animal Section at the National Institutes of Health. Now, she said, the number has risen to about 75,000 a year.
Much of the increase is likely a result of advancements in, and the promise of, gene therapy.
Dogs have always been a valuable research model for scientists, going as far back as Aristotle’s day. Their size, physiology and cooperative behavior have made them convenient models for scientists, who, like Pavlov’s dog, grew conditioned to using them in experiments.
While public opposition to subjecting dogs to medical experiments resulted in the practice dwindling in recent decades, the use of dogs has crept up again in the last two years due to advances in molecular biology, genetics and the sequencing of the canine genome.
Because dogs get about 220 of the same inherited diseases and disorders that humans do — including Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy, hemophilia and retinal degeneration – medical researchers are able to study the underlying genetic defects and, through dogs, seek cures.
This means dogs are being bred to be born with the diseases in colonies at U.S. universities and research institutes and, in the case of South Korea, cloned to be born with the diseases.
No one at the conference went so far as to suggest a halt to using dogs in research, but Serpell warned that the practice does come with risks, and a price.
Dogs evoke protective and nurturing instincts in people, and those have grown stronger as the dog-human relationship has evolved — to the point that dogs are viewed more as family members than family pets. Public opposition to the laboratory use of dogs has continually grown in the last few decades.
Researchers need to be cognizant not just of society’s strong feelings about dogs, but also about dog’s strong feelings for humans, Serpell said. “Many dogs undergo severe distress when contact with a human is limited or thwarted. We don’t give that regard sufficient credence,” he said.
The stronger attachment to dogs is in part due to breeders focusing on creating animals for purposes of human companionship, unlike in the past when they were bred for the work they could do. Serpell noted that baby-like features, for one thing, appeal to humans.
Showing photos of dogs, Serpell pointed to one and said, “This animal looks like it was invented by Walt Disney.”
Our attraction to dogs stems too from the fact that they make eye contact with humans more than any other species, and studies have shown that petting, or even looking, at a dog increases our levels of oxytocin.
“These dogs are turning us on by looking at us,” he said.
Our evolving closeness to dogs has implications for the laboratory, he noted, and perhaps all of society.
Serpell pointed to commentator Tucker Carlson’s recent statement that dogs are the social equals of humans, and that therefore Micheal Vick should have been executed for killing them.
“Lots of people feel the same way,” he said.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: beagle, caat, canines, center for alternatives to animal testing, cures, disease, dog, dog lovers, dogs, experiments, genes, genetics, humane, james serpell, johns hopkins university, laboratory, love, medcial, medical, opposition, oxytocin, pain, pavlov, products, research, rising, school, stature, status, stress, tests, therapy, treatment, university of pennsylvania, veterinary