Special Achievers

Jacqueline Rennebohm & Dexter

jacqueline-rennebohm-racing-the-100mJacqueline Rennebohm was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease when she was nine years old. However, she hasn’t let failing eyesight stop her from pursuing her dreams. Jacqueline attends the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, majoring in environmental health. She’s also a 100 and 200 meter sprinter in track and field, training to hopefully nab a spot on Team Canada and represent her country in London, England at the 2012 Paralympic games in September. A human guide runs beside her when she’s on the track. Her guide dog Dexter sits on the sidelines and roots her on; his job is to aid Jacqueline off the track.

Dexter received his training at Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and Jacqueline was matched with him last August. Dexter’s training required two years, and Jacqueline had to learn the basics of working with Dexter in just two short weeks. Guide dogs can take some time to bond with their owner, but Dexter and Jacqueline hit it off right from the start.

Jacqueline has been feeding Dexter CANIDAE All Life Stages and has been impressed with the results. “The food works for him so well. He has the right amount of energy and his coat is so soft. I’m spreading the news about CANIDAE because he’s so chipper and looks really healthy and lean. I can truly say he’s being fueled properly and is able to keep up with my pace with ease, so he’s on the right food, for sure.”

jacqueline-and-dexterJust like any relationship, Jacqueline and Dexter have discovered things about each other by interacting and learning together. A guide dog knows what his job is and understands the basics, but it’s through daily activities and working with his owner where he begins to figure out the little things he needs to learn to guide his owner. It’s impossible to try and teach everything a guide dog will encounter because it’s different with each person and is based on what they need their dog to learn.

“He’s made a big difference. I can go out and not worry,” says Jacqueline. “Visually, I can see less than 7 percent. I have no more central vision left and limited peripheral and can see less than five feet. Before Dexter, my world was always changing and I’ve always been adapting. But it gets to a point that you can’t adapt anymore because you have nothing left. So Dexter has come at a good time.”

Jacqueline competed at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games as a blind speed swimmer and was named to Team Canada in track and field as a sprinter in the 100 and 200m for the 2011 Para Pan-Am Games in Mexico where she finished in sixth place. She’s been to six continents competing in both swimming and track on Team Canada over the last nine years.

Tabby the Therapy Cat

Tabby the Therapy CatTabby is specially trained for therapy work. Even as a kitten, she was very calm, loved car rides, and would go up to new people almost immediately. She is harness- and leash-trained as well as her specialized training around wheelchairs, walkers, medical equipment, and elevators.

Tabby the Therapy CatTabby and her human mom visit an assisted-living facility twice a month to cheer up residents and provide companionship to those who miss their own animals. She supplements the nursing and therapy programs for residents with Alzheimer’s, dementia, limited mobility, and other severe impairments, by sitting on laps, being petted, listening to the residents talk about their former pets, snuggling on beds, and generally brightening everyone’s day.

When not visiting her friends, she plays at home with the other six cats in the household, naps with her human parents, and “writes” a diary of her adventures. She also has a Facebook fan page, which she uses to answer questions about cat training, animal-assisted therapy work, pet health, and other cat-related topics. She is also busy training two other members of the household, Freya and Heimdall, helping them on their way to becoming animal-assisted therapy team members as well.

Emma Zen

emma1Emma Zen is the Canine Ambassador for Biker Dogs and Leader of TEAM O2. Her owner Debra Jo (pictured below) writes: I’ve had “pets” my whole life but I’ve never had such a connection before. Maybe that is because Emma Zen isn’t a “pet” she is my world, literally. I spend every moment of every day doing “dog.” An opportunity I will be forever grateful to have experienced.

She was four months old when we adopted her from the shelter. She had this “old soul” quality about her and we felt her influence right from the start. What we didn’t know was the inspiration she would bring to me.

Emma has been trained in obedience, therapy, service, agility, trick, stage and film. We didn’t set out to be over-achievers. We were just trying to find her niche. Her passion turned out to be therapy and she had a gift for the lenses: photogenic, the click of a camera soon became her queue to turn it on. She has appeared in many advisements, magazines and a few short films. We also did something unusual — my husband and I bought our dog a sidecar when she was six months old. I never thought it was going to cause so much attention. I rode before I got her and now that I have her in my life, leaving her at home just wasn’t an option for me. She rode over 25,000 miles by the time she turned four. (And yes the comma was in the right spot!) She even hosts a yearly biker dog run in Sturgis South Dakota!

emma2All those eyes on her and the cameras were going constantly and we had ONE HUGE PROBLEM, environmental allergies! I was fooled by propaganda and assumed that an expensive food meant good food and at the time didn’t connect it to her questionable skin conditions. Thankfully we were introduced to CANIDAE Pet Foods and within weeks positive changes were noticeable. The inflammation on her skin was down, her coat appeared to be getting darker, she had more energy, which is saying a lot. Emma Zen is one of the world’s laziest dogs! And her hot spots had fur growing back in!

We didn’t stop here, wanting to use her public recognition for something grander than ourselves, so we found an initiative to stand behind and open The Emma Zen Foundation, a non-profit organization. Our main focus is TEAM O2, a Pet Oxygen Mask Campaign. We raise funds for this life saving equipment and then donate the equipment directly to Fire Departments. Far too many pets die every year from smoke asphyxiation. We are trying to change the number of successful resuscitation attempts.

Emma ZenEmma Zen is on a diet of CANIDAE Grain Free pureSEA. We blend it with a can of CANIDAE Chicken and Rice now and then. Her health and her physical appearance have both improved. She eats the same amount I used to feed her but she has lost weight. Makes me wonder just how much fat was in Emma’s old diet? (Yuck.) We would like to thank CANIDAE Naturally Pet Foods for caring enough about quality and nutrition that you boosted the health and physical condition of our favorite family member!

P.S. Ever want to teach an old dog a new trick? Just offer him/her CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit treats! Emma Zen can’t take her eyes off the box!

Ara Gureghian & Spirit

Ara Gureghian & SpiritI’m a full blooded Armenian… born and lived in France for 24 years with the good fortune to have been enrolled in the best Culinary school in Switzerland for 3 years, much traveling throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa in pre-war times as my grandparents lived in Cairo, Egypt. Two weeks after graduation, my father said “Son, here is your one way ticket to Philadelphia and $50!” I don’t know if he said “goodbye.” I cannot remember.

Forty some odd years later here I am, still can’t stand still, nomadic blood is in profusion, must be, in body and mind! Passion and dreams have always kept me going, as a restaurant owner, as a bakery owner, as a personal chef for the most fortunate… or unfortunate wealthy residents of Naples, Florida.

And now, for the next episode “The Oasis of my Soul” Journey which began 5 years ago, still drawing the “starting line,” this endless path Spirit and I have embarked on. This time the “finish line” does not seem to be in sight.

There is no turning back… there is no lifestyle that would ever compare to this one. This is my “therapy,” this I feel is my last episode. My journal is just another Life story with its steps awaiting one by one toward healing from the loss of my only child and son “Lance” who was just 26 at the time, toward sensing what was only a blur just a few years past. What was once a narrow path has widened, joined by so many friends and acquaintances lifting us up every step of the way. The world is so full of beautiful people, don’t let anyone tell you of the contrary.

Ara Gureghian & SpiritAnd my buddy, Spirit? Well… we have grown together, he has become my life and I know vice versa is also true. We are one now; he is quite the rider in his own sidecar and such a ham when wearing his goggles and helmet.

A 24/7 relationship with Spirit had brought in logistics unforeseen at first. For example, how about having to run into a large store even if it was only for medication refills? Or posting our journal online, needing a connection from the town library? It would be a very uncomfortable situation to leave him in the sidecar. My motto has always been to never lose sight of him even if he wears a “bear bell.” So I took the steps about 3 years ago to “certify” Spirit as a Service Dog, in the “Emotional Support” category. Well behaved, very obedient even if stubborn like me, he passed with flying colors. Of course we get frowned on at times, or asked where is his vest, which by the way is NOT a requirement. Overall, it has been our freedom to remain together 24/7 in each other’s company.

Ara Gureghian & SpiritOur destination is unknown, it is the Journey that matters, it is our own growth that sits above it all and guide us through the many moments acquired these days. We try to follow the weather, north in the summer and south in the winter. We have been fortunate to acquire some land in Texas near Big Bend. I call it “The Oasis” and its giant Fire Ring is the center of my own universe where serenity, peace and love reigns.

Cooking, riding the motorcycle and sidecar rig, my dog Spirit, my dear friends, photography, writing, reading, roasting and drinking coffee, camping, sailing, movies… no television and life itself… all of the above fills up our moments, one at a time.

Guido the Italian Kitty from San Francisco

Guido the Italian Kitty from San FranciscoImagine that – a cat with a job!

Not much can be more terrific than commuting to work on a famous San Francisco cable car, or being photographed onboard by numerous global visiting tourists (hey, he’s the only cat riding the rails!) and then having a cable car driver introduce his passengers to you. It’s a Catzowey life for Guido the Italian Kitty, who really does commute to his job via cable car. Making abundant friends en route to his job at The ARC of San Francisco, once he’s at work Guido uses his amazing talents to work with 52 Seniors, all with physical and mental challenges who attend the Senior Daycare program of The ARC.

Guido the Italian Kitty from San FranciscoCertified as an Animal Assisted Therapy pet in 2008, Guido often catnaps on the job, but it’s perfectly alright as it’s part of his job description to fall asleep in the lap of one of his many friends at The ARC. They smother him with compliments and kisses and some people hug him wildly, while others simply sit and stare adoringly at him. It’s how the seniors express their adoration for this visiting meowster.

At 5 years of age, this is the only job Guido has ever had, and we don’t foresee him being furloughed. His work days are short – about 90 minutes per visit, packing in lots of participation with the various groups: he helps knock over dominos, bats playing cards off the table, attacks yarn balls, paw paints, plays hockey with Crayons, excels in lap lounging and has been known to rev up his purr machine to make all smile. His dream is to stay on the job through lunch time to share a tuna sandwich with his senior friends!

Guido the Italian Kitty from San FranciscoWhen not on the job, Guido spends hours with his staff producing The Guido Gazette, a great blog detailing his week from his viewpoint and always wishing his subscribers a nonCATastrophic week. He’s a staunch believer that The Guido Gazette is a great way to start your day!

Being an Italian Kitty means Guido loves good food – both dry and wet – and the only cat food for him is CANIDAE because of it’s wholesome, natural, tasty and super healthy ingredients. CANIDAE Grain Free pureElements™ wiggles his whiskers and has brought his skin allergies under control. Guido is honored to be recognized as a CANIDAE Special Achiever.

Judi Basolo

(All photos were taken by Guido’s favorito photographer, Mark Rogers of www.markrogersphotography)

Wrangler the Therapy Dog

Wrangler the Therapy DogCANIDAE Natural Pet Food Company, in cooperation with Pet Provisions in Howell, Michigan is providing a healthy, natural and holistic diet for this very special dog, Wrangler.

This loving therapy dog, a Standard Poodle, participates in the Educational Programs at Round Elementary School in Hartland, Michigan. Wrangler helps encourage shy students to feel at ease and more relaxed in the classroom. This provides the students with a better environment in which to learn and develop. The children even read to the dog as part of the process. This motivates students to achieve high reading competency and better learning skills.

Having dogs in school programs also helps teach students Responsible Pet Ownership. Wrangler was donated to Hartland Consolidated Schools by Beth Spanski owner of For Better Independence Assistance Dogs. CANIDAE provides Wrangler with healthy CANIDAE All Life Stages dog food and Snap-Biscuit® treats.

Dexter the Facility Therapy Dog

Dexter the Facility Therapy DogA certified Facility Therapy Dog named Dexter is now part of the staff at Mill Creek Middle School, and he’s already a big hit with students and staff alike.

Dexter is a 22-month-old Labrador Retriever, and he has many different “jobs” at the school – among them encouraging kids to read, helping students who are feeling stressed or afraid, and greeting kids when they arrive on the morning school buses. Kids who have special needs will find comfort in Dexter’s presence as he does what dogs do best: give love and doggy affection.

Many children are nervous about reading out loud, because they’re worried about the reaction of others. With Dexter, students will get nothing but a tail wag, a friendly lick and a furry snuggle to spur them along and encourage them to do their best.

Dexter was trained by Paradise Dog Training, and was brought on board after the Dexter Rotary Club learned about facility dogs that make a positive impact in the daily lives of students. The Rotary Club raised the funds to purchase Dexter, and also coordinated with businesses in the Dexter area to provide services for him, including veterinary care, food, grooming and medicine.

CANIDAE Natural Pet Food Company, in cooperation with Dexter Feed Mill, will provide dog food for this special canine for life. As part of the sponsorship, Dexter will be fed CANIDAE All Life Stages dog food and Snap-Biscuit® treats while he is participating in the Educational Reading Program at Mill Creek Middle School.

“By feeding CANIDAE Natural Pet Food, Dexter the Therapy Dog will receive all the essential nutrition and energy requirements necessary for work and play while participating in the Educational Reading Program at Mill Creek Intermediate School in Dexter, Michigan,” said James Brown, Regional Sales Manager for CANIDAE.

Brown went on to explain that reading programs – like the one Dexter will be a part of – help encourage shy students to feel at ease and more relaxed, which is a better learning environment for them. “By having kids read to dogs, the process motivates students to achieve high reading competency and learning habits. Dogs in school reading programs teach responsible pet ownership,” Brown said.

Students who are aided by Facility Therapy dogs like Dexter will learn more than just reading. They also learn about caring responsibly for pets, dog training skills, and interacting with animals in a positive and friendly way. Students are not the only ones at Mill Creek Middle School who will benefit from Dexter’s presence. The staff and teachers at the school will also enjoy “more relaxed counseling sessions, physical therapy exercise and speech therapy,” thanks to Dexter.

When Dexter isn’t doing his job at the school, he will be living with a host family who will take care of him and his needs outside of the school. Sue McCarthy, a teacher at Mill Creek Middle School, is responsible for Dexter’s daily care and his transportation to and from the school. Other teachers and staff at the school will be trained to handle Dexter and work with him and the students in creating a positive learning environment.

Certified Therapy Dog Sadie

Certified Therapy Dog Sadie

Sadie, my six year old Yellow Labrador, is a well-trained Certified Therapy Dog who was certified by Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs in New Jersey. This wonderful non-profit organization evaluates, tests, trains, qualifies and supports therapy dogs for the purpose of giving loving and empathic support in assisted-living homes, hospitals, and other facilities where emotional service dogs are indispensable.

Sadie has been certified for four years now and together we make regular visits to a number of institutions near us including assisted-living homes, hospitals, and several children’s reading programs.

Not all dogs have the temperament needed to be a successful therapy dog, but reactions to Sadie have always been great. It’s a very heart-warming experience to be a part of.

Sadie is also a Certified Narcotics Detection Dog working and doing weekly training with Travelnmandogs trainer Ron Gaunt for going on 4 years now. Somehow, we find the time to participate in dock jumping and agility too!

Certified Therapy Dog SadieBeing a working dog I wanted the best food that I could provide for Sadie. I researched and researched different kinds of dog foods and kept coming back to CANIDAE. I believe CANIDAE has all the health benefits and the proteins she needs as a working dog so I decided to try it. Well, it’s been at least 3 years now and she is still a CANIDAE customer. She loves the food. She is a picky eater (especially for a Lab) but loves CANIDAE wet and dry. She especially likes her Snap Biscuit dog treats.

Cindy Lowry

UPDATE: August 2010 – When Sadie and I were camping in Ramona, CA, a nearby camper saw the CANIDAE sticker on my truck and came over to ask if I was a distributor for CANIDAE. He explained that he already fed his dogs CANIDAE and I told him how well my dogs do on it — that it’s the best dog food. Later, I asked a couple who lived in the area where the nearest feed store was as I forgot to bring my own container of CANIDAE for Sadie. They told me about Kahoots Animals and Supplies in Ramona. We starting talking and the following day she went and bought some. I even had someone pull up next to me while driving down the street. He saw my CANIDAE sticker and said that was the kind of food they feed their dog!!

Sherry Buchbinder, Barker and Doc Barker

Sherry Buchbinder, Barker and Doc BarkerBarker is a Certified Mobility Service Dog, Registered Therapy Dog and the only canine ambassador representing the Make-A-Wish Foundation and their Wags For Wishes programs in California and Arizona. Barker is also an honorary K-9 for the Riverside Police Department in California, and an honorary “Splash Dog” too.

Barker and handler Sherry Buchbinder also work with animal rescue organizations, encouraging people to be responsible pet owners by helping spread the message of “Spay, Neuter, Adopt.”

Sherry Buchbinder, Barker and Doc BarkerSherry encourages other pet owners to volunteer with their pets as a pet therapy team. “As a handler, it’s rewarding to see a smile on the face of a hospital patient, visitor, staff member, senior, or military personal when you and your dog enter the room,” said Sherry. She also enjoys educating people about working Service Dogs. “These dogs provide mobility, independence, and some can alert caregivers to medical situations, saving lives.” Sherri explains to people that service dogs assist many types of disabled individuals, not only the blind. Sherry enjoys telling people about these specially trained dogs, how they improve the quality-of-life for people such as herself and others with various types of medical disabilities.

Sherry Buchbinder, Barker and Doc Barker

Sherry now has a puppy in training who will hopefully replace Barker as her Mobility Service Dog. His name is Doc-Barker and Sherry is hopeful he too can become a Registered Therapy Dog and a canine ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Doc-Barker has been present at many of the recent Make-A-Wish events in California and Arizona. He is welcomed with open arms by everyone within the organization and has been invited to return to several California and Arizona chapters soon. What an honor for such a young puppy!

UPDATE: July 2010 – Sherry sent us this note about Doc Barker helping a young man get through a difficult medical procedure: “Surgery went well and Grant is expected to recover quickly. Doc was by his side the whole time (except during the Gamma procedure) and Grant really enjoyed his company. Doc was able to provide a comfort for Grant none of us could. Doc was a true ambassador today, in so many ways! Grant was in a lot of pain but Doc was right there and truly helped Grant, and all of us, get through it. I couldn’t help but cry while I was holding Grant’s hand as the doctors worked. It was tough to see Grant go through so much, again. Grant told everyone at the hospital his wish to be a handler for Doc. He told his doctor he wanted to go to Arizona Wags with us and that he wanted to be a wish ambassador so he could help other wish kids. ‘I want them to visit with Doc and feel as special as I did today. I want to help them smile.’ The ‘Power of a Wish’ means more to me than ever before! Today I saw how powerful the thought of a wish can be with my own eyes.”

VA Hospital Therapy Dogs – Stitch and Riley

VA Hospital Therapy Dogs - Stitch and RileyCANIDAE takes pride in sponsoring these wonderful therapy dogs who regularly visit VA hospitals in California. We all know what kind of positive effects dogs can have on our lives. In some cases, people need the extra attention that a trained therapy dog can provide. Through the kind-heartedness of their owners and trainers, these special yellow labs offer patients at the VA hospitals their attention, love and support.

Besides standard canine training, these labs have also received specialized training to learn how to behave around people that are going through a difficult medical condition.

VA Hospital Therapy Dogs - Stitch and RileyThese dogs are trained to help people by visiting them and giving them some company and joy. They are not trained to stay with them and help them with their tasks, so there is a difference between therapy and service dogs.

People often need some therapy to recover, which can prove boring and repetitive. A therapy dog can provide some excitement in their daily routine that will improve their situation. It’s been known to make people less lonely or depressed as well. It can distract them from darker thoughts that they might have.

VA Hospital Therapy Dogs - Stitch and RileyA therapy dog can also make patients be more responsive, getting them out of their routine, making them less passive. Try to put yourself in the place of a bored patient, that suffers from pain, and imagine what a joy would a dog bring you, if he came to interrupt your boring routine.

UPDATE: July 2010 – Stitch and Riley paid visits to the local veterans and children’s hospitals of Moreno Valley where they were greeted with open arms and smiling faces. Johne Johnson, assistant secretary of Moreno Valley Masons Lodge No. 804, and wife Jane, owners of Stitch and Riley, regularly participate in the lodge’s visitation programs. CANIDAE Pet Foods is very proud to offer them our support. Since the Johnsons certified them as service dogs, the golden labs have become beloved regulars at Loma Linda VA Hospital and the local children’s hospital, and play an integral role at lodge events. In addition to Stitch and Riley, the Johnsons recently certified Sophie, a Maltipoo, and are training their fourth dog, Bella, for future certification.