Recently I met Shannon Escobedo and her two therapy dogs, Doxie and Fozzy, at the Reedley Library. She now brings them to the Library on Saturday's to have the kids read to them.
I love my job as a dog trainer, more specifically, a service dog trainer. Although I train privately, a huge part of my job and daily life is educating the public about service dogs. Much of the time I have a service dog in training with me when I am out and about and I am frequently approached by people wishing to know more about the dog at my side.
Chester, our intelligent Chesapeake Bay retriever, wasn’t about to escape my writing about him. Almost two years old when this story happened, he was serious and willful in play, as well as in training. He is an assisted-activities and therapy dog, so he’s no dummy. Plus, he’s become a celebrity as the star in five children’s books. At the time, this sorrel, headstrong retriever probably figured he’d be visiting nursing homes and hospitals, so it was time to bone up on touring novel places.
A pint-sized angel with shimmering, sheer wings and a crooked halo on her head stood among the motley crew of trick-or-treaters on my front porch. She couldn’t have been more than four years old, much shorter than the others and her small pumpkin container hung lower. As I handed out Halloween candy, I suddenly heard a loud wail. “Nooooo, stop it!” Tears streamed down the face of the little angel in distress; her mother hurriedly ran up onto the porch. I looked down wondering what on earth could be wrong. Then I saw it! My Scottish terrier’s head was buried in her candy carrier frantically trying to grab a mouthful of candy before making his getaway. I assured the frantic mother that her angel hadn’t been bitten by the black furry head submerged in the pumpkin.
Animals know things. Long-time animal lovers and owners sometimes take this for granted. Since I came to animal ownership late in life I am awed every time it happens. How does Ollie know?
Darlene had worked as a surgical scrub nurse in a VA hospital for many years and also had taught Special Ed. She made her dogs a part of her work even when she had to sneak them in. I saw what a difference a dog can make with a child struggling with physical and emotional issues, she said.
Jon was a cat person. The only dogs he’d known were the hunting dogs his family kept when he was a kid. Yet, when he hit a rough patch in his life, he decided to get a dog; someone to walk with and have fun.
When Deb got her Maltese puppy, Kalia, whose name in Greek means good and beautiful, she was determined that the little pup would follow in the paw steps of her previous Maltese, Simka, as a therapy dog.
When Barbara lost her beloved Bichon, she was heartbroken and lonely. A friend told her about Small Paws Rescue and Barbara applied to adopt another Bichon Frise.
Currently Eileen’s Shreq, a handsome Doberman Pinscher, has proven himself to be outstanding in all three fields, but his award winning work as a therapy dog is particularly noteworthy. From young children in reading programs to nursing homes, Shreq is a big favorite, and often in costumes like his famous Elvis outfit.