Category Archives: service dogs

Therapy Dogs Live a Life of Community Service


By Suzanne Alicie

CANIDAE sponsors several outstanding animals, and are exceptionally proud to be able to include therapy dogs Stitch and Riley as well as their newly certified partner Sophie. Because of the CANIDAE sponsorship and even the attendance of some company employees at events, these dogs are able to spread their love and comfort in an ever growing way including hospital visits, community events and the Make a Wish foundation.

Johne and Jane Johnson volunteered their time at the VA hospitals before they got involved with the therapy dogs. Johne bought Stitch as a puppy for the express purpose of training him to be a therapy dog in order to expand their outreach program with the VA hospitals in the area. Along the way they adopted Riley whose owner claimed that she was a terrible dog who didn’t like men. Riley became a certified part of the team and loves being around people, men included. This just goes to show that the way an owner thinks and feels about a dog does affect the way they behave.

Jane, a marathon runner, found a Maltipoo in a gutter while out training one day. She brought her home ,and now Sophie is the newest certified therapy dog on the team. Sophie is small enough to claim a lap to cuddle in when she visits, and usually does so. The Johnsons have also rescued another dog, a Bluetick hound named Bella who is in the process of training. These wonderful dogs visit VA hospitals as well as children’s hospitals and many community events to spread love and companionship.

Pets in general have a positive effect on people, and therapy dogs are trained to provide the attention and love that the people in the hospitals need. Mr. Johnson tells of many times when visiting the VA hospital there were patients who were despondent and non- responsive to him and the others who visited with him. However, when the dogs began to visit, these same people opened up and began talking about pets they used to have, and really enjoyed their visits with Stitch and Riley. Eventually those same patients began to look forward to his visits, although if he went without the dogs the main thing he heard was “Where are the dogs? Why didn’t you bring the dogs?” This lets him know that his therapy dogs are truly something special, and that they make a big difference to these patients.

The difference between therapy dogs and service dogs is that the service provided by therapy dogs is purely social. Service dogs are trained to stay with a specific person and assist them with different tasks, while therapy dogs are welcome visitors who provide their services to everyone they encounter. Many times veterans need physical therapy to aid with their recovery from illness and injury; this can lead to a boring and repetitive routine. Therapy dogs introduce something a little different and bring some excitement into the day. Lonely or depressed patients have shown remarkable improvement after a visit from Riley and Stitch. The unconditional love and acceptance of a dog can lift the spirits and distract patients from dark thoughts and loneliness.

Imagine being a bored patient who is in pain and all alone. Suddenly these two gorgeous golden labs and their tiny white partner burst onto the scene, three special dogs who love to be petted and played with, who are happy to just be in contact with you. Interaction with the dogs breaks up a dull routine and makes the patient feel so much better.

The training to become a certified therapy dog involves learning several important things. Besides basic obedience, these dogs learn to deal with loud noises, ignore food when it’s dropped or eaten in front of them, how to handle crowds, and the fact that everyone will reach out towards them. The mentality of a good therapy dog is that any attention is welcome, and that love is the name of the game. Little Sophie recently got to take a trip to Disneyland as part of her training to become certified.

Mr. Johnson says that any dog can be trained to be a therapy dog, but some may have learned behaviors that must be worked through first. Dogs that have been abused in any way may shy away from strangers wanting to pet them. The Johnsons now have three certified therapy dogs and only one of them has been trained for his job since he was a puppy. There is a difference, Mr. Johnson says. All three dogs are good at their jobs and love what they do, but Stitch is the one who has been raised with love from the beginning and simply has no understanding of anyone being mean.

Besides being beneficial to the hospitals and the people they visit, therapy dogs like Stitch, Riley and Sophie are also helping to spread the word of the importance and legal allowances for certified service dogs. Mr. Johnson often takes Stitch to dinner with him and his wife; this is not only a training enforcement for the dog but also a learning opportunity for the people who work in restaurants as to when a dog is allowed in, and the purpose of the dog for the person he is with. There have been several instances where Mr. Johnson has been told he can’t bring the dog in. This leads to educating and informing the employees and management as well as other diners about the legality of service dogs and their purpose. By taking on this challenge, Mr. Johnson is making the world more aware and hopefully making it easier for the people who need to take their service dogs everywhere with them.

The Johnsons, their wonderful dogs, and the Masonic lodge they are a part of have received awards for their community service. They plan to continue with breeding and training therapy dogs in order to make life a little better for all of those they encounter.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Inspirational Dogs With Jobs


By Julia Williams

It’s estimated that around 77 million dogs are kept as pets in the U.S. today, but there are no similar figures for working dogs. I’m guessing this is because the list of canine careers is impressively long, and there is no central reporting agency to keep track of all the amazing canines that are willing to work for praise, toys, treats and love instead of a paycheck. In my last article I talked about police dogs, detection dogs and military working dogs. Today I’ll cover a few more dogs that have important jobs.

Search & Rescue (SAR)

These hard-working heroes of disaster relief are called upon to help in the aftermath of avalanches, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, bombs and other catastrophes. With their keen sense of smell and the ability to navigate through debris, confined spaces and unstable terrain, “Disaster Dogs” save countless lives every year. SAR dogs are also trained and used to help to locate missing persons and prison escapees.

Of the three types of SAR dogs, Air Scenting is the most common. This SAR dog is trained to pick up traces of human scent that drift in the wind. Air Scenting dogs are always worked off lead and are more successful in isolated areas. This is because they normally don’t discriminate scents, and if other people are nearby there is a possibility of false alarms.

A Tracking Dog is trained to follow the physical path of a certain person, without relying on air scenting. Tracking Dogs are nearly always worked on a lead about 30 feet in front of their handler, and are trained to follow each footstep.

A Trailing Dog uses a combination of tracking and air-scenting. They’re trained to follow minute particles of heavier-than-air skin cells that are cast off by a person and land close to the ground or on foliage. Because of this, Trailing Dogs frequently travel with their nose to the ground.

Bloodhounds are renowned for their prowess as search dogs, and have long been used by U.S. law enforcement to track criminals. They’re extremely athletic and can follow even the faintest of scent trails. Newfoundland and St. Bernard dogs are often used to find people lost in challenging environments like mountains and thick forests, or buried in an avalanche. Other breeds used for search and rescue work include the Black and Tan Hound, Doberman, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois.

Cadaver Dogs

This specialized search dog is trained to locate dead bodies, either above ground or buried, as well as underwater. Also known as Human Remains Detection Dogs, these hard working canines are vital to police investigations because without a body, it can be difficult to prove that a crime took place. Cadaver Dogs are also used to locate deceased victims of explosions, fires, avalanches and other disasters.

According to Cincinnati search and rescue handler/trainer Gina Flannery, Labrador Retrievers are “the best cadaver dogs in the world. They love things that smell bad.”

Therapy Dogs

Research has proven that animals can dramatically improve the quality of life for the elderly, they can help sick patients recover faster, and can bring a renewed zest for life to the lonely or depressed. Therapy Dogs are trained to provide affection, comfort and joy to people in nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, schools and even some prison facilities.

In addition to standard canine training, Therapy Dogs receive specialized training to learn how to behave around people with difficult medical conditions. However, they aren’t classified as Service Dogs because they’re not trained to stay with people and do not directly assist them with tasks.

Therapy Dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic is temperament –a good Therapy Dog enjoys human contact and is patient, gentle, confident and comfortable in a variety of situations.

Service Dogs

These working dogs are specially trained to help disabled individuals with daily tasks. Service Dogs can dramatically improve the quality of life for their human companion. In some cases, they can even mean the difference between life and death. Some of the different types of Service Dogs available are guide dogs for the blind or visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf, seizure and diabetes-alert dogs and psychiatric service dogs. The breeds most commonly used are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

CANIDAE sponsors many of these hard working dogs with jobs, including Avalanche Rescue Dogs, Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs. You can read more about these Special Achievers on their website.

Although my “pet of choice” is a cat, I greatly admire these remarkable dogs that contribute to our society in so many ways. Life without these hard working dogs just wouldn’t be the same – for any of us.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Surf Dog Ricochet: Changing Lives, One Wave at a Time


By Julia Williams

Some of you have undoubtedly heard about Surf Dog Ricochet, and you may have watched the incredibly moving YouTube video about her, “From Service Dog to SURFice dog: Turning disappointment into a joyful new direction.” If you have, then you know what an amazing canine Ricochet is. If you haven’t seen the Surf Dog Ricochet video, then I hope this article inspires you to do so— because the story of how this beautiful young golden retriever found her true calling and is changing countless lives as a result, is one that every pet lover should see.

Two-year-old Ricochet’s original path in life was to be part of the Puppy Prodigies Neo-Natal & Early Learning Program, as a service dog for a disabled person as well as a service dog breeder. Ricochet’s training began when she was just a few days old, before her eyes were even open. She learned quickly and showed great promise for becoming a service dog. But as she grew, so did her interest in chasing birds. Because this could be unsafe for a person with a disability, Ricochet had to be released from the service dog program.

Her people were terribly disappointed, but rather than dwell on what she couldn’t do, they chose to focus on what she could do, which was surf. You see, at 8 weeks of age, in addition to her service dog training, Ricochet had begun learning to surf on a boogie board in a kiddie pool. Although her surf dog training was begun just for fun, Ricochet displayed a remarkable natural talent for it. Moreover, she really seemed to love it.

Ricochet’s surf training progressed and before long she was “hanging 20” in the ocean, competing in (and eventually winning) Surf Dog Competitions. So Puppy Prodigies created a brand new job for Ricochet, as a ‘Surfin’ for Paws-abilities’ SURFice dog who would raise awareness and funds for charitable causes. And the rest is history, as the saying goes. In just seven short months, Ricochet has raised more than $20,000 for charitable causes!

Her first fundraising endeavor was last August, for 15 year old quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. Surf Dog Ricochet raised $10,000 to help pay his medical bills, and one of her sponsors awarded Patrick a grant to fund three more years of physical therapy. Then in December, Ricochet began a new fundraiser: a Surfin’ Santa Paws toy drive. About the same time, the inspirational SURFice Dog video went viral, which spurred an influx of donations from all over the world. As a result, Ricochet was able to provide toys for 650 children in hospitals and domestic violence shelters.

Continued donations from the video have allowed Ricochet to fund therapies for six year old Ian McFarland, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents. Additionally, most of the surfing competitions Ricochet enters are fundraisers for animal charities. So besides having fun and competing, the “Little SurFUR Girl” (as she is sometimes called) is also making a difference in the lives of her four-legged cousins. When she’s not surfing or fundraising, Ricochet is involved in goal assisted therapy work with children through Pawsitive Teams.

I’m a firm believer in the old adages, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.” I’ve seen enough examples firsthand that I don’t doubt this is exactly how the universe works. And now, the story of Surf Dog Ricochet is yet another fine illustration of these principles. Instead of greatly changing one disabled individual’s life by becoming their assistance dog, Surf Dog Ricochet is changing the lives of thousands… and potentially millions.

If you’d like to know more about Surf Dog Ricochet, you can visit her website, become her fan on Facebook, and even follow her on Twitter. And if you want to try teaching your own canine companion to hang 20, Ricochet offers some great beginner doggie surf training tips here.

There are two lines in the inspirational YouTube video on Surf Dog Ricochet that I just love: “When I let go of who I wanted her to be and just let her ‘be’ she completely flourished. And I reveled in knowing she is perfect, just the way she is.” She sure is. The video features the Taylor Hicks song, Do I Make You Proud. I just want to end this by saying “Yes Ricochet, you do!”

Photo courtesy of Diane Edmonds

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.