Feature Articles

Volume 3, Number 4

Jake the Therapy Dog

Breeder Education



This is the story of a therapy dog. I will describe therapy work, requirements for becoming a therapy dog, how to register the dog as a therapy dog, and how to begin visiting with your dog. But first, let me introduce the dog that inspired my writing this article for The Springer Showcase. This is the story of Jake, alias CH Integra's Ringside Gossip, CDX. Jake was a special boy from the minute I saw him. He just stood out in his litter and I'm fortunate it enough that his breeder, Sandy Simpson, let this boy come to live with us. Jake was originally purchased to be my first attempt ever at conformation showing. I have trained and shown in performance events for almost thirty years but found myself becoming bored with the same routines when training ones dog for obedience competition. I decided to try conformation in order to learn a new facet of the dog game and figured if it didn't work out, we could always go back to obedience training. Well, did it work out!!

Jake finished his championship at three years of age earning a Best Puppy award from the Santa Clara specialty, two-three point majors, two-four point majors, a BOB from the classes beating his sire that day (CH Silverhill's Straight Up), and finished his championship with WD/BOW at the San Fernando ESS specialty under a breeder judge. In addition to this his last two wins included back-to-back Best Opposite Sex in Veteran Sweeps at the 1999 and 2000 San Fernando specialties. He was shown as a special a few times but having a novice handler on him didn't bring us a great deal of success. Besides that, we had plans to pursue obedience training and earning those other titles to add to the end of his name. Jake went on to earn a Dog World award in novice and two all breed High In Trials. His highest career score was a 198 and his lowest score was a 195.

After earning Jake's championship and CDX, I got the wanderlust once again and began searching for a new canine game to play. We trained Jake for about a year in agility but poor Jake just couldn't make course time. Of course, he was eight years old at the time. About this time we brought home Jake's half niece and since then, the pup gets most of my time what with training her for conformation, obedience, and agility.

Always leaving Jake behind leaves such a sense of guilt with me. So, we started once again to look for something new and different we could do with Jake. Just what could we do that was not beyond an old dog's limits. So, we decided to try therapy work. Jake has been an active therapy dog for two years now having just qualified for Therapy Dog Internationals award of recognition, TDIA, or Therapy Dog International Active member. This award is given after one acquires a total of fifty visits with another visit milestone awarded after one hundred fifty visits.

First off, a therapy dog must not be confused with a service dog. "Service Dogs" are very special animals that with selective breeding and extensive training enable any disabled person to live and enjoy his life more fully. Service dogs include guide dogs for the blind; hearing dogs for the deaf, seizure alert dogs; or dogs who pull wheelchairs and directly support a person. Law permits these dogs anywhere, period! Therapy dogs on the other hand, are allowed into facilities by invitation only and can have this invitation revoked at any time. They are not service dogs. Are you thinking what do therapy dogs do? There are many uses for therapy dogs. Some uses require a minimal of training while other uses require extensive training. They promote a general feeling of well being with patients. They provide unconditional affection to those who lack it, such as persons, in prisons and shelters. They help improve focus in Alzheimer's patients and those suffering from depression. They often are used with those who have difficulty communicating such as psychiatric patients for example. They are great in helping stimulate memory functions in Alzheimer's patients. They are good at encouraging and aiding speech functions such as those suffered by stroke victims. They can be used to motivate simple physical activities for those with poor mobile skills. They can be used in providing practice for specific physical therapy functions such as throwing a ball, holding a brush and brushing the dog, etc.

As I mentioned earlier, therapy dogs work wherever they are invited. Some of the places they are used are hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, adult day care facilities, mental health centers, schools, day care centers, children's residential centers, prisons and the list goes on and on.

What makes a therapy dog? Temperament is everything. As in real estate we hear "location, location, location". In therapy work its, "temperament, temperament, temperament". Nothing else will take its place.

A dog that is friendly-who really likes people in general-is already a promising candidate. The dog that is friendly and well behaved-no jumping and running around, licking people without permission-is on the way to certification The dog that is trained to work around people who are bedridden or in wheelchairs, who is always under the handler's precise control, that can perhaps perform a few entertaining tricks-is halfway there. The dog who can take accidental mishaps in stride (such as when a disturbed client yells or brandishes a cane), who can deal with the endlessly repetitive interactions of Alzheimer's patients with the grabbing and gurgling of infants, and with the unpredictability of psychiatric inpatients-and give every indication of enjoying its work-is indeed a therapy dog.

Think your dog might be therapy dog material? Ask yourself a few questions. Is your dog well socialized? Do you take him out in public; get him around new people, sights and sounds? Does he adjust quickly to new sights and sounds or is he easily traumatized when his normal routine is upset? Is he 'people" oriented soliciting attention from folks he doesn't know? Is he of an easy going nature and not overly excitable? If you've answered yes up to this point then keep reading.

Therapy work also takes a special person, not just a special dog. Do you have the time for therapy work? Can you deal with the sights and sounds associated with illness, the physically restricted or elderly conditions? Do you enjoy visiting and interacting with folks?

If you are still answering, "Yes! Yes!" then the next step is training. The dog must be obedience trained and readily respond to the commands of "Heel!", "Sit", "Down!", " Come ", "Stay!" and "Leave It". This can be accomplished through private or group training. Once trained, he must be evaluated by a therapy dog evaluator who looks for stress, temperament, and obedience control. This test consists of the AKC/CGC test (see what the test consists of at http://www.akc.org/love/cgc/index.cfin) with the incorporation of health care equipment such as wheelchairs etc. The evaluator is looking for reaction to noise sensitivity, acceptance of fast and erratic motions, as well as reactions to excessive hugging and tugging.

After the dog is evaluated your veterinarian must then check him out. The dog must be clear of parasites and current on all vaccinations. These sheets are supplied you via the evaluator. Once the vet has checked out the dog and given the OK regarding the dog's health, then the next step is registering with a recognized therapy dog organization. You send in the completed forms with a photo of the dog and yearly registration fees. The two main organizations are Therapy Dogs International (http://www.tdi-dog.org) and Delta Society (http://www.deltasociety.org). Each registry has their own registration requirements and testing evaluation. Check them out to see which is more suitable to you and your dog. Both are well known and well established. They in turn will send you a registration card for the dog, a therapy dog dog tag, and a copy of insurance that covers all registered dogs while on therapy visits. Smaller therapy organizations do not have insurance coverage that protects you, the dog, and the facilities that you visit.

Once your dog is trained, registered, and you are rearing to go visiting then the next step is finding somewhere to visit. Contact local convalescent homes, adult day care facilities, children's homes, and hospitals. Ask for the activities planners or Directors as they are your best source of help and are always looking for activities for their residents. Find out if your local hospital has a Volunteer program and if so, ask how to become a volunteer. If you have friends or family that have been admitted to one of these facilities then find out if its possible to bring your dog in for visits. When you go to a facility to meet with these planners you might want to bring along a photo of the dog, copies of any titles earned on the dog, copies of the registries insurance coverage, copy of your current registration card, and proof of vaccinations. Have a web site address available for the registry you decide to register with so that they have a ready source for additional information they might need and maybe to answer additional questions that might arise. If possible, set up an appointment to bring the dog in for them to meet and visit with prior to your visits.

Dogs must be at least one year of age. Males as well as females make great therapy dog candidates. Remember, it's a dog's temperament that makes him therapy dog material. Dogs may be neutered or intact to be registered. They may be purebred or mixed breeds. Size is not important as all sizes have many pros and cons associated with them. One drawback I have found with Jake in these facilities is that Jake isn't tall enough to be easily touched and patted from a bed. Smaller dogs could be placed up in the bed with a patient and larger dogs have a height advantage. Our remedy? I simply pull up a side chair near the bed and have Jake climb up and sit. Now the patients can reach those silky long ears and so soft chest. They get lost in the Springer fringes.

Some memorable visits for Jake and I included three in particular. One involved a year old baby that was going home the day we visited. She stood next to Jake holding on to him to steady her self as she gurgled and cooed about him. Like the nurses said, "What a nice way to end a hospital visit No needles or negativity. Just something warm and furry to gurgle over!" On another visit at the same hospital a patient in the cardiac ward. He had an eleven-year-old blind nephew visiting him. He sat on the floor with Jake for about twenty minutes just examining the dog and asking me general questions about the dog. You know, what color was he, how old was he, and the likes. Jake rolled over on his back and scratched in time to the examination. I don't know who this visit was more therapeutic for, the boy or the dog. The last visit happened just last week. Again in the cardiac ward we came across an elderly lady who was left slightly debilitated. She was in tears, as she also took care of an elderly husband and now, she just didn't know what was going to happen to either of them, as she would also require care too. I pulled up a chair to her bedside and as she spoke to Jake as well as myself it came out that she used to breed and show Brittany's. She had been a member of the local Brittany club. Just taking a little time with these folks made them all feel better, made me feel better about myself, and allowed me to bring this sweet tempered ESS boy to them.

Jake regularly visits a four hundred-bed hospital once a week as well as an adult day care Alzheimer's facility. He loves people of all ages, doesn't matter to him who they are. He isn't an "in your face" type of dog but gently approaches folks, leans against them, and looks up with his big brownies just saying, "Here I am! Don't you want to pet me?" If they don't respond, he looks up at me as if to ask what the problem is. If they don't respond he moves on to the next person who might give him an ear scratch or back rub. When we go visiting he often wears his therapy dog cape and occasionally a costume. He drags me into the facility and once in, works his magic. If you need more info or help in getting your dog trained and registered please feel free to e-mail me at, IntegraESS.aol.com. What a nice way to give time to our old retired show dogs. It makes them feel valued and that they too are important in this pack of theirs. It's really a win-win situation. They add value not only to our own lives but they also touch others in some form. It also allows me the chance to introduce many folks to the ESS and educate them on our breed I point out the breeds good as well as bad aspects and am able to leave them only with the good ones. It's nice to be able to leave them with the picture of such a nice breed ambassador. Its very rewarding for everyone involved.


Ch. Eldamar's Ashwyn Discovery "Austin" (Ch. Telltale Eclipse x Ch. Neogahbow's Eldamar Spin Off) ex Ch. Shelley's Opulence "Nadine" (Ch. Gilchrist Hollidae Roulette x Ch. Shelley's Rose Revelation). Sire and Dam are OFA/CERF. This is a repeat breeding which produced Specialty winners and Group placers. (See Ashwyn Shelley's Scandal ad page 17, this issue). This litter should have dazzling sidegait, clean down-and-backs, and great temperaments. All black and white litter due mid January. All puppies ACVO checked prior to sale. Contact Anita Wheeler, Ph: 770/532-4248 or Shelleyess@Mindspring.com or Jacquie Dean, Ph: 512/259-6534 or Ashwyness@Austin.rr.com and/or see both parents at www.geocities.com/ashwyness.

Ch. Gentry's Skywalker (Ch. Gentry's Gallantry X Ch. Gentry's Salutaire Skye High) x Ch. Dansen's Contessa (Special Ranking - Ch. Dansen's Baratone Jubilee x Specialty Winning, Ranked Group Winning - Ch. Jubilee's Dansen Arpege). "Connie" finished with all majors from the puppy classes. She is a National Speciality & DFWESSA Sweeps, winner - handled by Kellie Fitzgerald. Inquires welcome, to Dr. Dan Sena at (214) 521-2258.



Not a Choice, But a Duty

By: Liz Kiener,

Legendary Springers

"Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens."

  -Jimi Hendrix


The idea of a Breeder Forum came to me shortly after attending the Golden Gate Specialty show last March. I have sat ringside and witnessed much more than ever, the transition our breed seems to be going through right now. While talking to Judy Vanderlip and Brenda Albrecht that day, we noticed something was missing. Not just in the dogs that were being exhibited, but something that was missing between the breeders and exhibitors, a connection, a discussion, a learning and educational experience. I approached Judy weeks later and asked her if Santa Clara would be interested in promoting breeder education. I thought it would be good to stimulate some discussion.

With that in mind, our intent and goal of the event that took place on August 25, 2001, the evening between the Santa Clara and Sacramento Specialty shows, was to enable the discussion while facilitating the educational experience for those breeders and exhibitors that chose to come. We did not want a discussion about genetic and health problems; that is already happening and is equally important. We wanted a discussion that doesn't seem to be taking place, an exchange about the basics and foundation of our breed. Breed history, type and movement were the focus and are the elements that make a Springer a Springer.

That night we had a slide presentation given by respected Breeder Judge Kathy Lorentzen who had worked on revising the breed standard, as we know it today. She enthusiastically wanted to share the knowledge she gained while working on the project. The focus centered on characteristics that seem to be in jeopardy today, head type, proportion and movement. It also emphasized the history of the English Springer Spaniel. It is important that we understand where we have come from to know where we are today. Many times history is overlooked because it is thought to be boring and unimportant. But studying the history of the breed can give one insight and a sense of direction. Kathy spent a fair amount of time discussing our breed's history. The presentation was also meant to clarify and expand upon things we already know and it was an experience where we could measure our decision-making. Purposeful decision-making equals betterment of the breed. But purposeful decision-making requires knowledge and to gain more knowledge requires a lot of time and effort. At times it is not easy to come by and many are not willing to make the effort.

Currently our efforts and the use of our time are spent and focused on competition and winning. One breeder claimed "you can't be credible unless you win in the ring". But I believe exhibiting dogs is not just about competition; it includes knowledge, competence and integrity as well. The competition has created this distance between us. Its divisiveness weakens us and it feeds upon itself. When we become more knowledgeable, more competent, we bring about more confidence and self-reliance. When channeled in a positive manner it can create a sense of community, which banishes resentment. The benefit of knowledge makes our breed stronger, more viable, it gives us power. The power to make decisions based on solid information rather than decisions based on wants and desires. Knowledge also gives us utility. We are all restricted by the limited resources available to us. We try to select the options that best advance our personal objectives with the least amount of output. We often try to choose what provides the most benefit. Utility is the benefit or satisfaction expected from a choice or course of action and is subjective. Knowledge along with purposeful decision making can create outputs that not only produce benefits but enhance satisfaction as well. To inspire our participants we must generate events that promote more knowledge.

Events where information can be passed and gathered and where the knowledge we gain will allow common goals to be defined, focused on and eventually attained. The knowledge is out there, all we have to do is claim it. The response that evening was instantaneous. There was a lively discussion among the participants. Everyone had something to share about their perspectives that they hadn't had an opportunity to discuss before. There were many that thanked us for organizing the event and they were glad that they had come. One claimed she had "learned more about Springers in that one evening than she had in the last ten years".

The following day Judy witnessed something she has never seen before. Springer breeders and exhibitors in-groups at ringside discussing and observing together what they had learned the night before. Discussing what they could do for the betterment of our breed. The seeds of knowledge had been planted which enabled us to learn and understand our breed better.

With that information we can strive to breed dogs that fit the description as it is written, not interpret the standard to fit the dogs that we have already produced. Let's do our best to generate events where we can take the time to gain the knowledge that's so influential, and learn what makes a Springer a Springer. Knowledge to help us choose wisely and intelligently. In the end we all become winners.


*Over fifty people attended our program that evening including the Breed Judge from Saturday's specialty show. I would like to thank the Santa Clara Valley ESSA for their willingness to take on this project and for their wonderful hospitality that evening. A special thank you to Kathy, she has put in a tremendous amount of time and effort into creating a valuable presentation. And of course thanks to those that attended. All were attentive and helped generate a very rewarding experience. I truly believe there is a need for these types of events. Kathy, Judy or myself are willing to discuss our thoughts on this matter with anyone who is interested. We'd love to hear from you.


Liz Kiener,

Legendary Springers


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