Christine has been a Therapy dog handler, on and off, since the year 2000. I’d like to share the amazing work she and her therapy dogs have done to help children and give back to the community. Christine graciously agreed to do an interview for Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them. Grab a tissue and get ready for your heart to be seriously warmed!
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: Christine, how many dogs do you have & how many are therapy dogs?
|Retired therapy dog Bette Davis taking a bite of her birthday Pupcake!|
CHRISTINE: I have 3 Golden Retrievers, 2 of them are therapy dogs. The oldest is Bette Davis who is 14 years old. She used to be a therapy dog but she can no longer do it because she has cancer now (due to an oral growth).
CHRISTINE : Then there’s Polly, who is 8 years old and Higgins who is going on 6 years old.
|Sweet therapy dog Polly, dresses up for the kids in the reading to dogs program|
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: Christine got all of her dogs as adult rescues except Higgins. Higgins is goofy and playful, and was born blind. When I first met Higgins at one of our kids’ reading sessions, I had NO idea he was blind! I just saw a beautiful, sweet and loving therapy dog. When I found out he was blind I was shocked. Honestly, you would never know he was blind if someone didn’t tell you!
When people hear you have a blind dog they feel sorry. No, don’t be sad or feel sorry! The dogs don’t know they’re blind. They can be part of a pack and a family. I never treated my blind dogs (she’s had several) like they were disabled, I always pushed to their limits and let them feel they were ENABLED not DISABLED. Don’t baby them and act like they can’t do things, you limit them when you do that. I treat them normally, no pity parties!
|Beautiful therapy dog Higgins is blind, but it doesn't stop him from helping children or enjoying life!|
Higgins loves to swim at the dog beach & chase his friends around! I use heavier balls that make noise to play with so they can find the ball! Emma, Higgins’ sister, is also blind. Their entire litter was born blind! Higgins and all his siblings were born with Juvenile cataracts. Their eyes weren’t developed properly behind the cataracts. The Breeder had de-wormed the mom while she was pregnant, and that may have caused all the puppies to be born blind. Or, the mom & dad could have had this blindness gene, we don’t know for sure.
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: It’s incredible that blind dogs can make great therapy dogs! Can you imagine, a breeder was going to rob Higgins of the chance to live, simply because he is blind! Higgins has given so much to this world and has made a real difference in the lives of children.
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM : What made you want to get involved working with therapy dogs?
CHRISTINE : I wanted to give something back. I felt so blessed to have one of my earlier dogs Maggie, who was amazing. It inspired me to give back.
I had gotten a call about a Golden Retriever Rescue who needed help. The dog’s owner said she had this “horrible dog” she wanted to give up. At the time, I wanted a female Golden Retriever about 1-2 yrs old with a nice golden color. I decided to see this “horrible dog”.
Maggie ended up being an amazing gift for me. Because of this gift I was given, I wanted to pay back somehow. I never had a therapy dog before, but I always wanted one. Before Maggie, I never felt I had the right dog for therapy work. With Maggie, I had the right dog, she fit the profile of a Therapy Dog perfectly. She loved kids and was the perfect therapy dog.
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: In addition to the kids reading program at the library, what other type of visits do you and your therapy dogs do?
CHRISTINE : We visit the Oncology department at the Children’s hospital. We also visit the College, where the dogs help ease the stress students feel during exams. We tried visiting a nursing home, but I realized my dogs liked kids so much, that working with kids was a better fit for them.
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: Is there a particular therapy visit that stands out with you more than others?
Christine shared these two heartwarming stories with me. I’m tearing up again writing about it. Grab a tissue, if these stories don’t bring tears to your eyes, better check your pulse!
CHRISTINE : My Therapy Dog Cody, who has since passed, visited the children’s hospital with me. Cody had this shark toy he loved. He brought it around with him everywhere we went, even on our therapy visits.
We were at the children’s hospital making our “rounds” to see who might need a visit, when a nurse came over to us. She said there was a child who was extremely frightened and needed some attention. The little boy had a stuffed penguin toy he was clutching in fear. He would not let go of it and he wouldn’t interact with anyone.
I brought Cody in to see the boy and asked if he would like to meet Cody and pet him. “NO!” the boy cried and turned away. I had Cody’s shark toy in my pocket. I gave Cody his shark and without a word, he went over to the boy. He leaned in close so he could show the boy his shark toy. The boy then showed his penguin toy to Cody and started giggling! The boy’s mother said to me “This is the first time he’s smiled since he got here!”
|Cody with his shark toy, the toy that helped get a frightened boy to open up.|
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: Another story Christine shared with me was when she and her therapy dog Polly were at the library for the children’s reading program. Our other good friend Paulette and her Keeshond therapy dog Teebo were on the other side of a partition put up to give the kids and dogs privacy as they read.
CHRISTINE: Polly was reading with a child when a mother, whose daughter was reading to Teebo on the other side of the partition, came over. She recognized Polly and asked me if I’d ever been at the children’s hospital. I said yes, Polly and I had visited the children’s hospital. Her daughter came running over and hugged Polly. “Look Mom, she remembers me!” She then said that Polly “Is so sweet and made me feel better [when she was in the hospital]”. The mom thanked me for bringing Polly and being there for the kids.
This is how Therapy Dogs impact people! I’m always impressed by the courage and
honesty the kids in the oncology unit have.
They are always so upbeat.
|Beautiful therapy dog Teebo who helps kids improve their reading and also visits people struggling with substance abuse.|
Sometimes a sibling of a child in the hospital is kind of ignored. All the focus is on the sick child. I think the siblings need attention too, so I give them a book to read, some fun stickers or a bookmark so they get some attention too.
DOGS LUV US AND WE LUV THEM: Christine, what advice would you give to new therapy dog handlers, or others who are interested in becoming therapy dog handlers?
CHRISTINE: I would tell them to know how to read their dog, know whether or not their dog is right for it [being a therapy dog]. Also, know if a particular therapy dog assignment is right for your dog or not.
I want to thank Christine for talking with me about her amazing therapy dogs and all the work they do to help people in their community, especially children! She and her dogs are pretty darn special, aren’t they?!
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