He’s My Therapy Dog First

Mar 30, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

Marilyn had owned Golden Retrievers for years. But, when her last Golden died at only eight years old she wondered if she could make that commitment again. Then, Marilyn talked to a Golden breeder who told Marilyn that she was expanding her line by breeding a Golden with a Standard Poodle for a non-shedding coat and for longevity. Marilyn was interested.


Caleb, the first of the Golden Doodle line, came to Marilyn as a puppy. From the first it was apparent that he had the wonderful temperament of a Golden and the intelligence of a poodle. “He learned his name right away,” said Marilyn, “and he was just so quick to pick up everything I taught him.” So, when Marilyn heard through her Golden Club about pet therapy and a pet therapy class the club was offering, she and Caleb signed up.

The duo proved to be a good match for pet therapy, coupling Marilyn’s background in education and her many experiences with volunteering through the Peace Corps and Habitat for Humanity with Caleb’s wonderful personality and intelligence. In the class they passed with flying colors, and, from his first visit, Caleb was a natural. He eagerly approached people often laying his head in a lap or snuggling on the floor with children. With his effervescent smile and his big bear paws, he was a hit everywhere.

Now, at five years old, Caleb does it all. He visits a local VA Hospital, senior facilities, and libraries, where he helps children to read. In addition, as Caleb’s success as a therapy dog spread, he and Marilyn were often asked to speak to women’s groups, rotary, service clubs, and other community organizations. “I have to monitor our social calendar,” said Marilyn, “because I’m nearly eighty-two and it’s easy to get over extended.”

Caleb on the job

Caleb has a great connection with children through the reading program at the library. The children sit along a bench taking turns reading to Caleb. As he makes his way down the bench, he sits in front of the child who is reading and looks up with adoring eyes. One day, when they were about to leave, Marilyn noticed a little girl at the end of the bench who had not taken a turn. Marilyn asked the youngster if she would like to read to Caleb but only got a shake of the head in response. At that point, Caleb took matters into his own paws by going up to the girl and putting his head in her lap. The little girl responded with a shy smile and began to rub Caleb’s head. “I knew at that point that she wasn’t afraid of dogs but that she probably couldn’t read so I told her that Caleb likes picture books, too.” The child went to the shelf, grabbed a picture book, and began telling Caleb a story from the pictures, her enthusiasm mounting as the story went on. Marilyn looked up to see the child’s mother nearby wiping tears from her eyes. When the story was over, the little girl closed the book and asked if Caleb would be coming again. When Marilyn said he would, the child smiled and said, “Okay, next time I will read to Caleb.”

Caleb cuddles

Marilyn and Caleb have an established daily routine. Every morning they go to mass where Caleb waits outside at a window so he can keep an eye on his favorite person. He also continues his therapy work there by greeting everyone coming to the service. By now, all the parishioners know him, and respond to his friendly greetings with lots of early morning smiles. Then, after the mass, Marilyn and Caleb go to a nearby park where they have an invigorating morning walk. “I love having a dog with such joy for life and who makes so many people happy, but he is my therapy dog first because without him, I’m not so sure I’d get up in the morning.”

Marilyn and Caleb belong to Love on a Leash, a national organization for pet provided therapy. You can learn more about the organization and pet therapy at their website: Love on a Leash.

Want to know how to see your ad like this at the end of an article? Email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] for more info. 10% of all ad sales goes to animal rescue.

Lee Juslin is a free lance copywriter living in North Carolina with her husband, Scott, and her band of misfits: Tarquin, a Wheaten Scottish Terrier, and three handicapped cats. They can be seen on their website: Hampshire Hooligans. She owns I B Dog Gone, a small embroidery business and is the author of the Nurse Frosty books for children and Frosty’s Story: Tales of a Therapy Dog. She supports a number of national and regional terrier rescue organizations.


  1. Another article that does the heart good. Thanks Lee.

  2. We should all be so lucky to have her dedication and energy when we get to be that age… I love people who refuse to grow old! How do you FIND these wonderful people, Lee?

  3. Nancy C said it and I agree. So many good dogs out there. E.

  4. We are part of the LOAL (Love on a Leash) chapter that Marilyn and Caleb belong too also. Watching Caleb and Marilyn doing visits at the Veterans’s Hospital with our chapter is just amazing to watch how much joy and love that Caleb to all our Veteran’s is just amazing

  5. Marilyn is proof 82 is the new 52. One amazing woman!


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