Kiss, Suki. Kiss: A Therapy Animal Story

Sep 1, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Lee Juslin, Pets

by Lee Juslin

When Katie Greene was laid off from her IT job, she took it as a sign, a sign that she should pursue pet therapy with her rescue dog, Suki.

Katie had a degree in music therapy and Suki was the most laidback people-loving dog in the universe—at least to Katie. Seemed like a perfect fit, so Katie and Suki, a blend of husky, border collie, and whatever else, began training. After Suki had earned her CGC (Canine Good Citizen), the duo applied for membership in Love on a Leash (LOAL), a national therapy pet organization. Soon Suki and Katie were happily visiting at ARC of San Diego, a facility for disabled adults, a senior activity center, and the area VA hospital.

Suki

Visiting at the ARC had a special meaning for Katie as she had had a disabled child who had since passed away. Here were people with extreme motor skill limitations that made Suki’s trick of giving kisses on command especially important. “Many of the ARC residents simply couldn’t pat Suki but they obviously wanted to touch her,” said Katie. “I would have them hold a hand close to Suki and when I said: ‘Kiss, Suki’, she would gently give the hand a lick. We were then rewarded with the most beautiful smiles in the world.”

In addition to their therapy visits, Katie and Suki joined an exercise group for people and their dogs designed to keep the person and the dog fit. One day in class, Suki was on a thirty foot lead, she reached the end of the lead, and somehow twisted and dislocated her hip. The injury required major surgery and a two month break from therapy visits.

Happily, the six year old Suki has recovered and returned to her therapy work. She was greatly missed at the ARC, where some of the residents were able to relate Suki’s injury to their own health problems, as well as at the senior activity center. And, Suki obviously missed visiting all her friends. “She just loves to visit and gets so excited when we are getting ready to go.”

Because she is part border collie, Suki has strong herding instincts. She tries to herd the other dogs at the dog park as well as some of the other therapy animals. She was particularly interested in a bunny at one of the facilities. Katie made this a training moment, and Suki is no longer distracted by the bunny.

Katie is enjoying full time retirement from her IT job which allows her to focus on her pet therapy work with Suki. She says that if you have the right dog and take the time for proper training, it is a terrific way to give back to others. “Yes, it takes commitment,” she agreed, “but the rewards are so worth it.”

Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question about pet therapy.

Read more animal related articles by Lee here in KRL.

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Lee Juslin a graduate of Bucknell University with a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is a freelance copywriter who lives in NC. Until recently, she was active in pet therapy with her certified therapy dog, Frosty, and owns I B Dog Gone, an embroidery business dedicated to supporting several terrier rescue organizations.

9 Comments

  1. this is a great story for sure. My 12 year old scottish terrier and I visit the severly handicapped children , some which have nothing to smile about, Thank you for what you do and thanx for the commitment ! Marsha and Jake from Pa,

    Reply
  2. I love the stories about therapy dogs.
    Great article. Good doggie.

    Reply
  3. When you spend this much time with a dog, there’s a bond like nothing else. What a great time they’re having!

    Reply
  4. Always enjoy anything Lee writes, especially the subject Therapy Dogs. From Irish Wolfhounds to Chihuahuas, size does not matter just good temperament and dedicated owners and you have a Therapy Dog team, making smiles where you go.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for all the work you are doing with Suki. It is obviously something she has a knack for and so rewarding for you and the people you minister to also. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  6. Lee’s done it again — tears in my morning coffee — Thank God for Therapy Dogs and their owners – they make their day for some of the permanent facility care folks bearable. Should I ever be in that situation, I truly pray that there is someone like Lee with a therapy dog to kiss me.

    Reply
  7. Thanks Lee for another great story about therapy Dogs. Thank you Katie and Suki for putting so many smiles on so many faces. (and a few tears)

    Reply
  8. Thanks for the wonderful article on Suki and me! We love what we do and she is such an awesome dog! And just a week or so ago I adopted a 1 1/2 year old Golden Retriever (mix) named Crosby from the Southern CA Golden Retriever Rescue. He, also, has the makings of a great therapy dog! I’ve already started his training!

    Reply
  9. I am blessed to be a close friend of both Katie, and Suki. They are a wonderful team, bringing love and comfort to all who know them. Katie has put in many hours with Suki, helping Suki know what she needs to do, and how to do it. There is a light that shines when they come into a room to help others..be it at the hospitals, centers, or library programs (where children read to Suki.) Not sure who gets the “most” joy out of the visits…the visitors, or the “visitees”….but it’s a win-win for sure! Thanks Katie, and Suki for all you do, and the love you give.

    Reply

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