Category Archives: therapy animals

Llamas and Alpacas as Therapy Animals? Why Not!

Rojo-HiResFloralBy Julia Williams

First there were therapy dogs. Then came therapy cats. More recently, the list of therapy animals has expanded to include horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, potbellied pigs…even llamas and alpacas! It seems people have finally begun to realize what I have known for most of my life – that virtually any animal has the capability to help our seniors, special needs children, hospital patients, rehabilitation facility residents and others who need cheering up.

When it comes to therapy animals, size doesn’t matter because animals are so pure of heart and willing to lend a paw (or a hoof) to spread cheer. Case in point: a big, shaggy-haired llama named Rojo and an equally hairy alpaca named Napoleon can bring on the smiles every bit as much as a fluffy little dog can!

Admittedly, llamas and alpacas might not be the first species that comes to mind when you think of therapy animals. However, the Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas & Alpacas don’t let this stop them from visiting schools, hospitals, senior communities and rehab facilities throughout Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA. Offering friendship and a warm hug, these very special therapy animals help alleviate loneliness and reduce stress, and their presence brings a sense of normalcy to institutional settings.

rojoreading revMountain Peaks, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, offers therapy teams that have successfully completed the Animal-Assisted Therapy Certification process. Rojo was their first therapy animal; this unusually people-friendly llama received his Certification in 2007. Since then, the Mountain Peaks menagerie – Rojo, Smokey, Beni and Little Chap (llamas), and Napoleon, Jean-Pierre and Andre (alpacas), have completed more than 900 therapeutic visits. Mountain Peaks also provides theme-decorated llamas and alpacas for birthday parties, BBQs, weddings and other private and corporate events.

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Therapy Dog Comforts Kids and Seniors with Teddy Bears

An Interview with the Amazing Stacey Mae 

By Langley Cornwell

Stacey Mae is a beloved therapy dog in Canon City, Colorado. With over 19,000 Facebook fans, this Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s good deeds span the globe. Some of us at the CANIDAE Responsible Pet Ownership Blog wanted to know more about this four-legged angel.

I had the opportunity to interview Stacey Mae. With a motto like Never Give Up, Never Back Down, Never Lose Faith, you get a sense of the dog and her guardian’s character. Throughout the process, however, I was only granted access to Stacey Mae herself. Apparently her guardian wants all of the credit and acclaim to go to Stacey Mae. Maybe that’s another peek behind the curtain?

Our interview:

What made your family get involved in canine nursing home therapy? 

My family had another Greater Swiss Mountain dog named Gracie who visited nursing homes for several years. They wanted to do something nice for the elderly and knew that people in nursing homes really like dogs. Gracie was mellow and loved people, so my family thought it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, the nursing home where Gracie visited closed down. When that happened, my family stopped going. Then Gracie crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2008.

Sorry to hear about Gracie. What happened next? 

Once Gracie passed away, my family thought I would do a good job visiting homes since I am so relaxed. I don’t lick, and just like to spend time with people. I’m fine if people want to pet me and if they don’t, I’ll just lay down near them to keep them company in their final days, months or years.

How old were you when you started?

Just a little over a year old.

What do you most like about being a therapy dog?

The people; I’ve met wonderful people at the nursing home, and I can tell I’m helping. Even though it is hard to say goodbye, knowing I helped make their time better is worth it.

Then you wanted to do more? 

Yes. After about 2 years of simply visiting the elderly, we wanted to do something more. So in October of 2010 we launched the Teddy Bear Project.

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A Tribute to Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog

By Linda Cole

When you gaze into the eyes of a dog, there’s a goodness and honesty no human can match. Dogs are just so unpretentious, and walk beside us for as long as they can. Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog lived the last six years of her life in a wheelchair. She crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on June, 21, 2012 from Chronic Heart Disease, but this isn’t about the end – it’s about the amazing life of a little dog who never gave up. I spoke recently with Frankie’s mom, Barbara Techel, to learn more about the little Dachshund who stole the hearts of thousands of people she met. You see, Francesca was a therapy dog who used her disability and spirit to teach others, including Barb, about life and why it’s important to savor every moment we have on earth, and never give up.

Barb’s life was changed in 2006 on Easter Sunday while she and her husband, John, vacationed in Florida. Frankie had been left in a local kennel back home in Wisconsin. She had jumped up on her food container and fell. She had hurt her back and couldn’t walk. Frankie was diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Frankie was given only a 10 to 30 percent chance of walking again after surgery. “When I got the call, I was pretty devastated. I had lost my chocolate lab nine months before to bone cancer, and when I got the call, I really thought I was going to lose Frankie. I thought she was going to die and I wasn’t going to see her again.”

After surgery, Frankie was paralyzed. “I couldn’t picture taking care of a handicapped dog. She had incontinence issues also because of the paralysis and that was something I had to learn how to take care of. But I would have done this for a lifetime. We had the most intense, incredible bond I’ve ever had with a dog. My mom helped me see I had to give Frankie a chance, I had to at least try.”

We learn lessons when we’re ready to understand them. Sometimes, it’s our dogs who teach us about ourselves and life. “We live in a town of about 900 people. For my whole life, I worried about what people thought about me and the choices I made, and I was painfully shy for a good part of my life. I remember being so scared to take Frankie out in public in her wheelchair. I was afraid people were going to judge me, that they were going to say it was cruel or mean. I remember watching Frankie, just so happy and rolling around in her little wheels, and it was like her telling me I didn’t need to worry about what others thought of me, and to stand tall and be who I am. From that day forward, my confidence grew by leaps and bounds and I don’t worry anymore about what people think of me.”

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How an Abandoned Dog Found Her True Calling

By Linda Cole

Sometimes, life throws even dogs a curve ball and they suddenly find themselves abandoned and alone. And sometimes, life has something special in store for a little homeless dog left all alone. This is a story about an abandoned dog named Antoinette, and how she found her true calling.

When this story began for Annie, it could have had a completely different ending if the right person hadn’t found her. It’s easy to pass judgment on others, especially when it comes to the treatment of a pet, but none of us really knows how we will react to a situation until we’re confronted with one. Sometimes, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel and we make the decision we feel is right at the time. For Annie, everything turned out better than her owner could have guessed. Her guardian angels were watching over her and placed Annie’s fate in the hands of a stranger who found her in a dog park on a cold Thanksgiving night last year in Springfield, Illinois.

Stormy Edwards was walking her dog when she heard a dog barking from the Stuart Park area. The dog sounded like she was in trouble, so Edwards decided to investigate. As she neared the sound of the barking, she realized it was coming from one of the pens in the dog park. Using a flashlight, Edwards found a scared and confused Cockapoo named Annie that had been left inside one of the pens, along with a dish of lasagna and a bowl of water. A note had been placed under the lasagna that began with “My name is Antoinette, Annie for short.” The note went on to say that Annie’s owner had become too ill to care for her and she had put Annie in the pen in hopes another dog lover would find her and take her home. Annie’s shots were up-to-date and she had been spayed. It ended with a plea to whoever found Annie, “Please take me home. I am a loving dog.” The note was written by a woman.

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The Life of a Certified Service and Therapy Dog

By Ambassador Doc-Barker

My name is Ambassador Doc-Barker. I’m a 2 year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever and Team CANIDAE Member.  I am a service dog certified through Canine Support Teams, Inc., a therapy dog registered thru Delta Society®, and a Canine Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America through the Wishes Forever® endowment campaign, as well as my family’s loving pet.  I have eaten CANIDAE dog food my whole life! I started out eating the All Life Stages (ALS) formula, and for the past year I have eaten Grain Free pureSEA, and I love them both.

As a balance and mobility service dog, I help my mama do many things. I pick up items she has dropped like her car keys, money, credit cards, etc. I help her by pulling her wheel chair or scooter and a grocery cart, which is a huge assistance to mama. I also help her get up from chairs and up and down stairs and inclines. Because I am a therapy dog, my fur needs to be soft, shiny and petable for all whom I visit, and my CANIDAE food keeps it that way.

As a canine ambassador, I travel around the country accompanied by my family, bringing awareness about service and therapy dogs and the important jobs they do, and also bringing awareness about a children’s charity through a canine connection. Ambassador Barker, my mentor, was mamas first service and therapy dog as well as a canine ambassador. He ate CANIDAE All Life Stages (ALS) too!

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Will You Be Watching the National Dog Show Tomorrow?

Eli, National Dog Show Ambassador

By Linda Cole

This year, the National Dog Show will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The televised dog show has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition along with the Macy’s parade. What better way to spend the holiday than surrounded by family and friends as you enjoy a fun filled afternoon of marching bands and floats, good food and lots of great dogs.

I was invited to attend a phone press conference last week that included David Frei and Mary Carillo. David is the Communications Director for the Westminster Dog Show, and Mary is a retired tennis pro turned sports broadcaster. David is hosting the National Dog Show this year, and Mary is the featured reporter and commentator.

The National Dog Show is one of only six dog shows where the public is invited to go behind the scenes to meet the dogs and talk with their handlers and groomers. The show draws the top ranked dogs and this year’s entries will be close to 2,000 dogs. Dog lovers can see firsthand how show dogs are prepped for the big stage. Around 20 million dog loving viewers tuned in to watch last year’s show.

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