Meet Lady: Therapy Dog Extraordinaire

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Recently, a small group of dogs and their people met in Rumsey Park for certification testing from Therapy Dog International. The dogs were put through a series of exercises to prove their suitability to visit people in hospitals, senior residences and schools. The dogs had to walk on a loose leash, be friendly among a variety of people and other dogs, remain calm around people on crutches, wheelchairs and loud noises, stay when told to stay, be relaxed while their owners were out of sight and be willing to be petted, poked and brushed by a variety of strangers.

After the paperwork is completed and mailed to TDI, the dogs that passed the test will receive yellow tags showing that they are certified therapy dogs.

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Lady focuses her total attention on the "patient," Ray Boehm, during testing for Therapy Dog International. Katie Calderon watches proudly. Joanie King explains to the observers that Lady's behavior is just what she is looking for, but rarely finds.

Lady is a 6-year-old Brittany spaniel who shares a home with Katie and Ron Calderon. She passed the test and earned her Therapy Dog International certification. She will soon be out and about sharing her charm and sweet personality, but life has not always been easy for her.

Lady and her brother were purchased from a pet store in Scottsdale and lived for a time with a celebrity family in the Valley. The brother soon died of distemper. Being untrained and seeking attention, she displayed disruptive behavior. After six weeks at a doggie "boot camp," she was still out of control. The owners were ready to have this 9-month-old puppy euthanized.

The Calderons were still recovering from the loss of their 13-year-old Brittany and were not quite ready for another dog. However, after hearing the story about Lady from their veterinarian, they had no choice. To save her from further pain, they brought her home. Still being very hyperactive, Lady was "bouncing off the walls." So, another trainer was hired. Once she realized that she had found a loving, stable and permanent home, "Lady settled into a beautiful dog with a kind and gentle heart," Katie said. She daily went to work with the Calderons and was loved by all their clients.

Katie was hospitalized suddenly in September and Ron had to get tranquilizing medication for Lady, because being alone at home without Katie was so upsetting for her. The head nurse was in the room as Ron was telling his wife about Lady. The nurse said, "She needs her mom." She told Ron to bring Lady to the hospital. On entering the hospital room, she very gently jumped up on the bed next to Katie, among all the tubes and lines, and lay very still. Doctors, janitors and nurses would come in and pet her, but she would not move.

The day after her arrival at the hospital, loud screaming was heard from down the hall. A little girl was very ill and suffering great pain. Nothing would calm her. Ron talked with the girl's mother and offered to bring Lady for a visit with the girl. The mother was ready to try anything.

Lady gently jumped onto the bed with the girl and lay close to her. Within minutes, the screams stopped and the girl was petting Lady. The girl must be hospitalized every few months and Lady is always there to comfort her.

Any patient wanting a visit from Lady or another therapy dog should inquire at the information desk or check with the doctor or nurse.

There are a few dogs, like Lady, who are natural therapy dogs. They are intuitive and feel another's pain. However, most dogs can be trained for therapy work. They can learn to sit quietly while being petted, put their heads on a lap, sit on a chair next to a hospital bed and put their heads on the bed for comfort. Generally, dogs love to be able to help and eagerly look forward to these visits.

For more information about Therapy Dog International and the requirements for certification, call Joanie King at (928) 474-8953. Classes will soon be offered in preparation for TDI and Canine Good Citizen testing.

The Payson Humane Society needs foster families for baby kittens and puppies, which tend to be in abundance this time of year. If you can help, call Lisa Boyle at (928) 474-1836.

The Low Cost Rabies clinic, sponsored by Payson and Star Valley Gila County Rabies Control, will be Saturday at the Main Street Animal Clinic, 411, W. Main St. in Payson from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Payson or county licensing will also be available, as well as other vaccinations your pet may need. Bring your pet's health records and proof of neutering. Pets must be secured on leash or in kennels.

The Payson Humane Society needs volunteers during a variety of summer events where they will set up a booth. Call Penny at (928) 474-4648.

The Payson Humane Society Rummage Sale will be from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, at St. Philip's Catholic Church in Payson. There will be tons of great bargains and wonderful finds. Don't miss it.

A North American Flyball Association sanctioned tournament will be held in Rumsey field at the ball park, across from the Payson Public Library, on Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20.

This event is being hosted by the dog racing team, INSX, and local resident, Jonnie Geen. Racing will be ongoing from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. both days. Flyball is the fastest-growing dog sport in the world. If you have not experienced flyball, you cannot possibly imagine what you are missing. This is your opportunity to see some of the fastest teams in the Southwest. There is no charge. Volunteers are needed. Call Jonnie at (928) 472-6555.

A Rally fun match will be held at the Payson Off Leash Dog Park on Saturday, May 19. Rally is a relatively new dog sport, which is fun for dogs with basic obedience training. There will be walk-throughs and instructions for beginners. Watch for more details.

-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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