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.

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.

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 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 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.

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