A Kiss is Still a Kiss: A Therapy Dog Story

Jun 7, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

Linda had been a Shih Tzu breeder so she knew the breed well. She had also done pet therapy work so when she and her husband, Joe, retired they were determined to dedicate some of their time to pet therapy.

Traveling to Florida to visit family with their only remaining Shih Tzu, an older girl they called The Dowager, they learned that The Dowager was ready to welcome another Shih Tzu into the family. “Every time we stopped anywhere and saw another Shih Tzu, our girl tried to drag it over to our car,” said Linda. “Joe and I got the message that she did not want to be an only dog.”


Linda and Joe with dogs

Back home, Linda and Joe found a reputable Shih Tzu breeder and went for a visit with the idea of adopting a little male. But when Linda met Dani, their plans were turned upside down. In fact, Dani demonstrated just how upside down things could be by scooting along the top of the sofa on her back just above where Linda and Joe were sitting. “She wouldn’t be ignored so Joe and I ended up taking a male, Malo, and this show-off female, Dani.

Dani had originally been purchased by someone who turned out to be unable to care for her properly and was even a bit abusive. The breeder took Dani back, and was looking for a home with people who would love and appreciate her. Linda and Joe had just that home.


Dani and Malo

Malo is a darker, black Shih Tzu, but Dani has some unique coloring. She has a coat of gold and white/blue with no black, which is unusual for a Shih Tzu.

Malo and Dani fit right into Linda’s home and were given a kiss of approval by The Dowager. Soon both dogs had passed and received their CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certificates, joined Love on a Leash, and were ready for pet therapy visits.

Linda and Dani visit nursing homes and reading programs for children at a local library. When Dani is at a nursing home where the residents assemble in a large room, she positions herself at the entrance door so she can greet everyone as they come in.


Dani With Vest

At one of the nursing homes, Dani met a little lady who asked if Dani could sit on her lap. Linda put Dani in the lady’s lap, but told her not to put her face down or she would get a kiss. “Oh, I haven’t had a kiss in so long,” the lady replied, and Dani was happy to oblige.

Another resident who was in a wheelchair and very withdrawn, resisted Dani’s charms at first. She kept her head down and her hands in her pockets. A family member took one hand and placed it on Dani and the older woman began to smile. After several visits, this resident has become one of Dani’s biggest fans and enjoys the fact that Dani has a kind of pony tail which is how she wears her own hair. “It’s amazing to see the difference,” Linda said. “This resident now smiles and laughs because of Dani. She has even made up songs about Dani that she sings to us on our visits.”

While Dani enjoys her nursing home visits, she has a special love for children so the library reading program is perfect for her. Dani listens patiently while the children read to her, but they occasionally meet a child with a fear of dogs. One little boy said he didn’t want to meet Dani and Malo, though he told Linda they looked like Ewok dogs. Despite the best efforts of Dani and Malo, the little boy did not want to read to them, so Linda and Joe moved on. Later, the little boy brought his mother over to “meet the Ewok dogs.” His mother was quite surprised. “I don’t think he’s ready to pat them yet, but he’s never even gone this far before.”


Cooper with Dani and Malo

Dani and Linda went on a special therapy visit when they were called into Washington State University during finals week. “I knew they generally used larger breed dogs for these visits so I wasn’t sure how we’d be received. But, when we got there, the activities director told us that lots of the students were waiting for the ‘funny little dogs’. I got a kick out of seeing these big football players holding and cuddling Dani. Some of the students said Dani should join Kiss because the dark color around her eyes reminded them of Gene Simmons in make-up.” Given Dani’s eagerness to lavish kisses on one and all, that just might be a good fit.

You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.

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Lee Juslin is a free lance copywriter living in North Carolina with her husband, Scott, and her three misfit 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. Great story, Lee.

  2. I love the way Ms. Juslin catches the real essence of the dogs she writes about – ‘Tzu’s are such endearing little ‘Ewok’s that they will eventually melt anyone’s heart.

  3. Oh, Lee! You’ve done it again! I’ve never even given much thought to Shih Tzus before. But that little Dani with her top knot? Sooooo very cute! I hope that one little boy with such a fear of dogs finally caves in and sees what darlings dogs can be!


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