Sunday, October 11, 2015


We know that all modern day dogs have been selectively bred for ages to enhance certain behaviors, capabilities, and physical attributes.  Their basic physical make-up though, no matter how altered, is that of their wild ancestors.  In other words, all domestic dogs, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes have the same traits.

If all dogs share the same traits, why is it that, at present, one of the most prolific and victimized dogs filling shelters is the Pit Bull?  We hear a lot about Pit Bulls, and about them being a “bully breed”.  Are Pit Bulls deemed aggressive, vicious, and unpredictable because they are then equated with the perceived “schoolyard bully”?  A term originally used to categorize a group of specific breeds has become fodder for confusion and misrepresentation, so it is time to clarify and provide a bit of insight on bully breeds and their evolution.

A Pit Bull is defined as an American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and any cross in-between.  In some regions, the American Bulldog and the Bull Terrier are classified as a 'Pit Bull'-type dogs.  These dog breeds are also known as being part of the “bully breed” group.  This grouping also includes other breeds like Boxers and Boston Terriers.  Many breeds that are classified bulldog, mastiff or that are brachycephalic (having skull bones that are shorter in length, giving the face and nose a pushed in or flat appearance) are bully breeds.

The term “bully breed” actually has nothing to do with temperament, size, or reputation.  It does have to do with the lineage and the dogs’ purpose.  Bully breeds are descended from an extinct large breed of dog called Canis Molossi.  These dogs, famous for courage and ferocity, were trained by the Molossis people to serve as guardian and war dogs.  Originating in the mountainous regions of northwest ancient Greece and southern Albania, they are believed to be the early forerunners of Mastiffs.  The Molossers are described as good-sized dogs that have a stubby jaw with two fangs projecting from it, a large head with drooping ears, thick shoulders and neck, powerful hindquarters, and large paws.
Phoenicians regarded these huge dogs as a valuable commodity for trade, the Romans valued them for their hunting ability.  Exported to Asia and Northern Africa, the Molossers interbred with dogs of the regions, resulting in offspring with shorter coats while retaining the characteristics of massive heads and short muzzles.  Eventually, the dogs made their way to the British Isles, where they again bred with Celtic tribe dogs.  The resultant dogs were trained to grab a horse by its nose during battle.  By holding onto the nose, the horse would buck its rider off in order to dislodge the dog.  The Romans called these dogs Pugnace Britannicii, later known as the Broad Mouthed Dogs of Briton. 

In England, as early as 1154, bull baiting became a popular sport.  Originally, the “Broad Mouthed Dogs of Briton”, were set upon a bull that was restrained.  The dog that grabbed the bull by the nose and pinned it to the ground would be the winner in betting circles.  Over time, the owners of these dogs realized that the size and structure of the animal had to change for it to have a better chance at survival.  Through selective breeding, the Bulldog gradually evolved and became a separate breed from the Molosser, the Mastiff-type breed. 

After 1835, when bull baiting became illegal, dog fighting saw a rise in popularity.  Hardy, scrappy sporting Terriers were crossed with the bull baiting Bulldogs to enhance the traits necessary for fighting in smaller pits.  These cross breeds were called bull-and-terriers and are considered the first Pit Bull-type dogs.

The following are Molosser descendants, known as the “Bully Breeds”: Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog; American Bulldog; American Mastiff; American Pit Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Bandog; Belgian Mastiff; Boerboel, Boston Terrier; Boxer; Bull Terrier; Bulldog; Bullmastiff; Cane Corso; Dogo Argentino; Dogue De Bordeux; English Mastiff; French Bulldog; Great Dane; Neapolitian Mastiff; Olde English Bulldogge; Perro de Presa; Pug; Renascence Bulldogge; Rottweiller; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; and Victorian Bulldog. 

As a last note, while the word ‘bully’ is mainly associated with the Bulldog and bull baiting, Bully breeds later became a term to refer to those dogs that were “Bulldog-like”, including the brachycephalic breeds like the Pug.  There are many who associate the term with Pit Bull-type dogs, only.  Next week, I will offer a more in-depth look at the often-misjudged Pit Bull.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


We live in a rural area where wildlife abounds.  Around our home I have sighted many examples of this, such as raccoons, skunks, and bats, among others.  Interestingly enough, these same animals account for the most frequently reported rabid wildlife species in the United States.  In fact, as recently as July of this year, the Tehama County Health Services Agency issued a warning to County residents concerning the threat of rabies.  Even though no human cases were reported within the area as of the date of the warning, the agency did report that rabies in bats was considered widespread within the county.

While many of us may never come across a rabid wild animal, the possibility definitely exists that one of our pets will, especially when allowed to roam freely.  Therein lies the risk to humans.  According to the World Health Organization, domestic dogs, through bites or scratches, transmitted the rabies virus in more than 99% of the human cases reported.  Of note, children between the ages of 5–14 years of age are the most frequent victims, which is not surprising since the highest incidence of dog bite injuries occur within the same parameters.

Since rabies has been a popular theme in many novels and films, opinion often is that a rabid animal can be easily identified because of the foaming at the mouth, the baring of teeth with overt aggressiveness, and the uncontrollable drooling.  Unfortunately, these symptoms are usually indicative of the latter stages of the disease.  What one may find, instead, is that a wild animal may lose its dread of humans and come within close proximity.  Another signal could be a nocturnal animal becoming active during the day.  Neither sign is representative of the prevalent perception.

Wildlife is more likely to be rabid than our domestic animals.  Our amount of contact with domestics is typically larger than our contact with wild animals.  When a rabid wild animal does infect a pet of ours, our risk in contracting the disease greatly increases.  So you might ask “Why all the concern?”  The concern is that once a person begins to show signs of rabies their chances of survival are extremely poor.  The first signs of rabies mimic typical flu symptoms such as fever, general weakness, and headache.  Within days other symptoms appear such as insomnia, anxiety, confusion, and agitation.  As the disease continues to progress, delirium, abnormal behavior, and hallucinations occur.  Shortly thereafter organ failure occurs and death ensues.  Therefore, all of us should make every effort to limit possible rabies exposure and to provide adequate immunity to our pets. 

To limit possible exposure, we begin by vaccinating.  According to California law, all dogs over four months old are required to be vaccinated for rabies.  It is also highly encouraged that other animals, like cats and horses, that are outdoors and have the possibility of contact with wild animals, also be vaccinated.  Unfortunately, there will always be those who will not or do not vaccinate their animals.  Unvaccinated animals allowed to roam outdoors, without adequate supervision, are exposed to wild animal vectors and other domestics that could be infected.  In addition, avoiding contact with wild animals or any pet that is unfamiliar can aid in preventing unnecessary exposure.

If you or your pet is bitten by an unfamiliar animal, seek immediate medical or veterinarian attention.  In addition, report the incident to the Tehama County Health Services Agency (530-527-6824).  You will also need to contact the appropriate Animal Control agency.  In the city limits of Red Bluff, call the Red Bluff Police Department (530-527-3131).  In the city limits of Corning, call the Corning Police Department (530-824-7000).  Anywhere in Tehama County other than the above locations, call the Tehama County Sheriff’s Office (530-529-7900 ext. 1).  It is very important that the biting animal be located, safely apprehended, and assessed for rabies. 

The California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife ( provides a multitude of resources in dealing with wildlife issues.  However, if do you find a deceased wild animal in your home, contact the above Animal Control agencies about what to do with the remains.  If you are to remove it, be sure to wear gloves before handling it, and place it in a plastic bag.  Try to avoid any direct contact but, if contact does occur, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as is possible.

Additional information regarding Rabies can be found at the Center for Disease Control ( ), the California Dept. of Public Health ( and the Mayo Clinic ( ),

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Every day law enforcement and firefighters risk their lives to protect all that we hold dear. Because of their actions the families we love, the community we live in, and the businesses our livelihood depends on, all breathe a bit easier, knowing that these men and women stand ready to do what is necessary to safeguard us.

P.E.T.S. (Providing Essentials for Tehama Shelter) is extremely grateful to these guardians of life and property and we would like to say “THANK YOU” to all the dedicated personnel involved. As P.E.T.S. way of saying “Thank You”, starting October 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 2016, the Spay/Neuter and Rabies fees of ANY animal adopted at the Tehama County Animal Care Center by fire or law enforcement personnel working in Tehama County, including volunteer staff, will be paid by P.E.T.S.

We feel that the courageous men and women who serve our county deserve our admiration, support, and gratitude for the often thankless jobs that they do. It is our hope that by reducing the adoption fees, that they and their families will find a furry friend to bring a bit more joy into their lives. Just as these unsung heroes help us, we hope we can do the same for them.

To qualify for this program, the adopter must be a member of any Tehama County Fire Department or CAL FIRE Unit located in Tehama County, or a member of any Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, or CHP unit that is located within Tehama County. A photo ID and verification must be provided to qualify.

The Tehama County Animal Care Center is located at 1830 Walnut Street in Red Bluff. Care Center adoption hours are 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays.

If you would like more information regarding this program, please call P.E.T.S. at 530-527-8702 or email us at:

Thank you for being there for us and others.

With gratitude, the Board members of P.E.T.S.:
Sharron, Ronnie, Nellie, Stephen, Everett, Clarissa and Samantha

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Pet adoptions may happen quickly for many of our furry friends.  Regrettably, there are a number of homeless animals who are not adopted within a few days, or even a couple of weeks.  Some of them, in fact, may languish in their kennels for months.  Why is it they cannot get that loving family they deserve?  Are they just unlucky or is there some commonality between them that brands them less than desirable? 

“Less Adoptable” is the common thread all of them share and all it means is that these pets are harder to place.  We all know that pets come in varied sizes and shapes and each one has its own unique personality.  Unfortunately, according to, senior pets, adult cats, pit bull-type dogs, special needs pets, and black pets take quite a bit longer for adoption because of their distinctiveness. 

A senior pet or adult cat can be the perfect pet in many homes.  They may be a little slower in some areas, but they definitely have a lot to offer, among which is experience and maturity.  With older pets, what you see is what you get.  Not only have they have reached their full-grown size, but their personality has already developed.  Despite some special considerations that an older pet might require, if you were willing to adopt one you might  find that they will not need the constant monitoring and reinforcement that puppies and kittens require, plus they are already most likely housetrained. 

Special needs animals may be missing an eye or limb, or they could be partially or fully deaf or blind.  They can also include those with health conditions, such as cats with FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and Heartworm positive dogs.  Whatever the disability or condition, most will enjoy a full and active life, and be as delightful and affectionate as any other pet.  All they require is some extra help by a caring human.  This I say from personal experience, since I have had several ‘special needs’ animals.

Personally, I do not understand the vagaries of why one finds a black pet less appealing than another color.  The theory is that superstition and certain beliefs, even in this century, play an integral part in selection.  Additionally, the thought is that black pets are less photogenic than their counterparts are, thus resulting in them being unnoticed by possible adopters.  Lastly, according to research done by the University of California, black cats were perceived as being more antisocial than other colored cats.  Other than color, the truth is that these pets are no different from equivalents of a different color.

All of us involved with animal welfare would love to see every hard-to-place animal leave the shelter, and we want nothing more than for these homeless pets to find a loving permanence that they did not have before.  However, we also realize that adopting any animal should never be done impulsively or because a heartstring was suddenly tugged.  When bringing a new family member home, it is important to prepare yourself for it, and to honestly evaluate whether you and the animal will be a perfect fit.  So, if you are considering a pet that is a senior, or is disabled, or is a bigger breed, or has a health condition, please be sure that you are willing and able to give it the resources, commitment, and love necessary.  If you do happen to provide that nurturing forever home to an animal who is often unnoticed and disregarded day after day, you just might find yourself being its hero.

Next week is the countrywide “Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet” campaign, launched in 2009, by, to bring awareness to these overlooked jewels.  The Tehama County Animal Care Center at 1830 Walnut St., Red Bluff, in conjunction with P.E.T.S., will be joining hundreds of other facilities around the U.S. that are offering Adoption Specials to find these often-maligned critters forever homes.  During the week of September 21 through, and including, September 26, any Black, Senior (over 4 years), Pit-Bull, Special Needs (has a disability or is Heartworm positive) dog can be adopted for $45.00 or less.  Any Black, Senior (over 4 years), Special Needs (has a disability or is FIV positive) cat can be adopted for $20.00.

As a final note, if we focus on the many positive traits and wonderful personalities that these often ignored, but amazing, animals have, just maybe their luck will change, and they will leave the shelter a bit quicker than they usually do. 


For those of us who believe our pets are part of our family, deciding when to euthanize a pet is the hardest decision a guardian will ever have make.  It is, without a doubt, the ultimate anguish we must endure for our adored companions. 

How, then, do we help our furry friends without letting our own longings and attachments prevent us from doing what is best?  We do it by fully evaluating the pets’ quality of life and then determining whether our decision is based on our own wants and needs, or theirs. 

Unless a pet is seriously injured and the decision must be an immediate one, take the time to ask yourself these following questions:  Are most of my pet’s days good?  Does my friend lose balance easily and fall frequently?  Does he/she recognize me, and the rest of our family?  Does he/she still have energy and enjoy his favorite activities?  Can he/she still hear and see?  Is he/she in chronic severe pain that I cannot control with medication? Has he/she stopped eating and do I have to force feed?  Has my pet’s personality changed?  Is he/she constantly vomiting or having diarrhea?  Honest answers to these questions will help determine how good the pet’s quality of life is. 

Remember, no one knows your pet better than you do.  You have learned to communicate with him or her.  Listen to what your pet is saying through actions, vocalization and body language, and then trust in what your heart is telling you.  In addition, do not hesitate to seek guidance from your veterinarian.  Then, lastly, ask yourself one more question.  Would I want to be here today, to experience this day the way my cherished companion is?

While trying to decide whether to euthanize or not, you may face a wide gamut of emotions.  In addition to your intense love for the animal, you may fear the unimaginable loss of him or her.  Prior experiences with illness and death, whether it was a pet, family member or another may have a profound impact on your decision.  Religious beliefs will also influence the outcome of when or if you will euthanize.  In addition, it is not unusual, when dealing with the terminally ill, to deny what is occurring.  It helps us avoid the pain and agony of difficult decisions.  

To stay or not stay with a pet during its’ final moments is a very personal one.  Everyone deals with death in different ways.  For some pet guardians, the emotion of being present may be too overwhelming.  For others, it is a great comfort to be with their companion animal when he or she is crossing the “Rainbow Bridge”.  Neither choice is right or wrong.  What is best for the guardian is the correct decision and most veterinarians will honor the choice.  

Grief is also a normal response and very personal.  Sometimes our family and friends do not realize how deep it may resonate within us.  There are programs and organizations that provide assistance and resources to help with the loss of a pet.  One is The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement ( 

Saying “Goodbye” takes courage, but it is the ultimate expression of our love and devotion we can show to our treasured companion.  I believe it is best exemplified by the poem, “The Last Battle”, author unknown.

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done
For this — the last battle — can't be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.
We have had so many happy years, you wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend, 
Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do.
We've been so close — we two — these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


As many of us are aware, the presidential race to the White House has begun with its characteristic political rhetoric.  Recently, I learned that September 23 is also known as “Dogs in Politics Day”.  Intrigued, I researched a bit and thought that whether you are “Right”, “Left”, or in-between, you just might enjoy some political poop not spread by politicians.

A Senator running for Vice-President, named Richard M. Nixon, was accused of taking $18,000 in campaign funds and using it for personal reasons.  Although he denied the accusation, during a televised address on September 23, 1952, he did admit to accepting a personal gift that he emphatically refused to return.  To quote, “You know what it was?  It was a little Cocker Spaniel … And our little girl …Tricia … named it Checkers.  And you know, the kids love the dog and I just want to say this right now… we’re gonna keep it.”  The address was later known as the “Checkers Speech” and is thought to be the motivating factor in the creation of “Dogs in Politics Day”.  The speech was apparently quite successful, for Nixon subsequently served two consecutive Vice-Presidencies.  Checkers never did make it to the White House, having died in 1964.

Pets and United States Presidents seem to go hand-in-hand.  While the gamut of types of pets is rather extensive (including a hippo, a tobacco chewing ram, a flying squirrel, alligators, raccoons, white mice, etc.), only 31 of the 43 presidents actually had dogs.

In the mid-1780’s, aware of George Washington’s intense interest in hunting dogs, Marquis de Lafayette, his ally during the Revolutionary War, sent him seven massive hounds.  Washington crossed these dogs with his own hounds to create a new breed, the American foxhound.  In addition to these famous seven (Sweet Lips, Tipsy, Tipler, Cloe, Searcher, and Drunkard), Washington had more than twenty other canine companions.  One of them, Vulcan, was said to have overwhelming fondness for Virginia hams, much to Martha’s chagrin.  He was definitely a hound with good taste.

Thomas Jefferson originally disliked dogs, especially those at Monticello which ate the sheep.  In response to the marauding dogs, Jefferson came out for a law that required every dog to wear a collar with the owners name on it, so they would be held liable for any mischief that ensued.  Thus, the author of the Declaration of Independence was also the instigator of the dog license.  Jefferson’s attitude did change, and while serving as minister to France, became enamored with native sheepdogs.  Long story condensed, his “Buzzy” became the precursor of the American line of Briard-type sheepdogs.

An Italian greyhound named Le Beau was a gift from the consul of Naples “to grace the White House lawn” during John Tyler’s term.  I suppose “gracing” a lawn is interpreted in a variety of ways.

Fido was a mutt adopted by Abraham Lincoln.  According to various accounts, President Lincoln refused to take Fido with him to Washington DC because he was afraid he would not be able to handle the trip.  He left him in the care of friends with a rather lengthy list of instructions to insure he would be a pampered pet.  Alas, Fido, unaccustomed to mistreatment, had an unfortunate encounter with a drunk and died less than a year after Lincoln’s assassination.

Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s constant companion, earned the rank of honorary private in the United States Army by "giving" $1 a day to the war effort.  He gained additional notoriety during the 1944 presidential campaign when Roosevelt lambasted Republican opponents by stating that Fala’s Scotch soul was furious about a story that Roosevelt had cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.  Apparently, “Fala’s Speech” did not hurt Roosevelt’s reelection

Harry S. Truman’s Feller was one of the most unwanted dogs in history.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s gift of an adorable mutt, named Pushinka, to John F. Kennedy during the Cold War may, or may not, have helped relations.  Lyndon Johnson’s beagle, Him, is remembered mostly for his ears and having many people upset with the President’s perceived cruelty.  The stories and anecdotes are endless and enlightening.  If you want to laugh at something other than the candidates this election year, I recommend that you read more about “Dogs in Politics”.  As President Bill Clinton said about Buddy, “It’s the President’s desire to have one loyal friend in Washington.”

Back in Black

Patterns of black and white captivated the runways during Fall/Winter 2015-2016 Fashion Week.  It appears these are the new “in” colors and combinations for the hottest fall/winter clothing lines.  If you walk through the cat adoption area at the Tehama County Animal Care Center it appears that most of the kitties present were bred specifically for this stunning fall/winter fashion season.  Unfortunately, when it comes to cat adoption, “black is not back”. 

Not long ago, PetFinder conducted a survey.  The results were that most pets had postings up for an average  period of 12.5 weeks.  However, less-adoptable pets’ postings, such as black, senior, and special needs pets, were up almost four times longer.  In addition, a 2013 study published by The Open Veterinary Science Journal concluded that black cats, regardless of age or sex, required the longest time to adopt.  Next-longest to adopt were primarily black cats, mixed with other colors.  It would seem even in this age of enlightenment that many myths and superstitions still surround these black beauties.  It is time to dispel the beliefs that black cats are the harbingers of evil or bring bad luck. 

While there are 22 cat breeds that can have solid black coats, the most common, and famous, of them is the Bombay. It is a shorthaired breed developed to resemble a miniature black panther.  They are known for their black coat, black nose, and yellow eyes.  Intelligent, outgoing, playful, attention seekers, they do well with children and other pets, including dogs.  Those acquainted with the movie “Hocus Pocus” and the cat Binx, and Homer, the fearless, blind feline of Gwen Cooper’s book “Homer’s Odyssey”, are already familiar with two fine examples of this breed.

In ancient Egypt, black cats were treated like royalty.  In fact, the penalty for killing a black cat was death.  If an Egyptian family’s cat died, all the inhabitants of the house shaved their eyebrows as a sign of deep mourning.  When everyone’s eyebrows grew back the period of mourning was over.  In addition, the deceased cat was embalmed and buried in a sacred vessel.  

In most parts of the world, the belief is that if a black cat walks towards you, good luck is definitely coming your way.  In the United Kingdom and Japan, if a black cat crosses your path it is considered fortuitous.  In Scotland, the belief is that if you find a black kitten sitting on your porch, riches and happiness will come to you.  In Germany, some believe that when a black cat crosses a person's path from left to right, the cat is granting a favorable period.  In Latvia, farmers will dance with joy upon finding a black kitty in their grain silo.  They believe the feline is the spirit of Rungis, a god of harvests.  One French myth states that if someone has a black cat with even one white hair, Lady Luck will smile upon him or her.

British and Irish sailors believed adopting a black cat for their ship ensured the safety of all the sailors on board.  Additionally, if the ship’s cat fell or was thrown overboard, it was thought that it would conjure up a terrible storm to sink the ship.  If, by some miracle, the ship survived, it would be cursed with nine years of bad luck.  Even with the risk of losing the cat, they were brought aboard due to the belief that their miraculous powers would protect the ship from dangerous weather. 

King Charles I of England owned a black cat.  Because he believed it to be lucky and did not wish to lose it, he had it guarded day and night.  Supposedly, the day the cat died, Charles proclaimed, "Alas, my luck has run out."  Coincidentally, the day after the cat died Oliver Cromwell's troops came and arrested the king for high treason.  It does appear that there was some truth in King Charles having better fortune while the cat lived.

Black cats are no different from any other cat.  If we choose to believe in the superstitious myths, then why not believe in the good ones and bring a black cat into your home (or on your ship)?  In deference to the fashion industry, remember their fur will not show on any perfect little black number you own.  Perhaps best of all, black cats never go out of style and go with EVERYTHING!  In fact if you truly want a little luck and be in style to boot, then black really is the way to go!  

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Last week I discussed Assistance Dogs, a.k.a. Service Dogs.  They are dogs that are specifically trained to assist a person with a disability, as defined by The Americans with Disabilities Act.  This week's article is about another very special type of dog, known as a Therapy Dog.

Simply stated, a Therapy Dog is a dog which provides comfort to people.  They also receive training, but it has a completely different type of focus.  Their key responsibility is to provide psychological therapy to an individual.  Children typically enjoy hugging animals.  Adults usually prefer to do the calming repetitive motions of petting or stroking. For the people these animals go to visit, the desired outcome is that they feel emotionally supported.

Therapy dogs come in all sizes and shapes, but they all have shared qualities.  They exhibit behavior that is predictable, friendly, and confident, even in new settings.  Since they might have to be lifted onto a person’s lap or bed and lay or sit there contentedly for a set amount of time, they are comfortable with human interaction and are calm in demeanor.  Their body posture is relaxed and they remain tranquil in a variety of situations.  In addition, they enjoy being petted, hugged, and touched, even if during those times the hands doing it are awkward and clumsy.  They display remarkably good manners and do not display extreme nervousness or shyness.

Unlike service dogs, when they are working therapy dogs are encouraged to interact with a wide variety of people and be accepting of differences in various people's behavior and reactions.  These animals provide comfort to people in hospitals, hospice environments, convalescent homes, psychotherapy offices, assisted living facilities, disaster areas, etc., and to people with learning difficulties.  They provide companionship and help relieve the feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

While most people are familiar with therapy dogs who visit hospitals to provide emotional therapy, these are not the only environments where they can be beneficial.  In hospice environments, they play a crucial role in reducing anxiety about dying.  They also visit schools, day care centers and rehab centers to assist in the building of self-confidence.  At counseling centers, they provide a comforting presence to victims of domestic violence.  Some universities in the United States bring Therapy Dogs, fondly known as “Therapy Fluffies”, on campus to help students de-stress.  In fact, these “Therapy Fluffies” have visited the UC Davis campus the week before both midterm and finals, since 2010.

If you would like to make a difference in someone’s life by sharing your dog with them, there are opportunities here in Northern California.  There are two local area organizations I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with that can train and certify both you and your dog.  The first organization is Prescription Pets a.k.a. Rx:Pets ( ) located in Redding.  In addition to providing animal assisted therapy, they have expanded their efforts to include the successful R.E.A.D. ® Program (Reading Education Assistance Dogs).  The R.E.A.D. program improves children's reading and communication skills by having them read to a Therapy Dog.  As a side note, not too long ago, a P.E.T.S. volunteer adopted a stray dog from the Tehama County Animal Care Center.  He passed the Canine Good Citizen test and both he and his guardian became certified.  They are now part of the Rx:Pets team.  The other organization is Independent Therapy Dogs, Inc. ( ) whose two local trainer/ evaluators are located in Anderson and can often be found working with the canines at Haven Humane Society. 

Whatever organization you choose, the dogs will be required to meet their standards in order to be certified and insured by them.  Their guardians usually handle the dogs, but in some cases of Animal Assisted Therapy, a qualified professional might manage them.  It is also important to note that, despite training and certification, Therapy Dogs do not have the same legal rights as Service Dogs as outlined under Titles II and III of the 1990 Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Improving the lives of people, whether it is helping a child who is learning to read or providing comfort to a patient in a hospital, is what Therapy Dogs are all about.


Monday, August 10, 2015


“Dog is man’s best friend” is not an expression that is unfamiliar to us.  Very often that quote bears witness to the diligent work and acts of heroism performed by dogs both here and abroad.  Last week was ‘International Assistance Dog’ week, an event created to recognize, and raise awareness about, assistance dogs.  During the course of this and next week’s articles, I would like to shed some light on the ways many dogs “assist” us.  In addition, offer a bit of clarification between service and therapy dogs.

Service dogs are assistance dogs, therapy dogs are not, even though they help people.  The difference between the two as explained by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) National Network ( is as follows.

Specifically trained, a service dog performs set tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.  The disability may be classified as being physical, sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual.  The work performed by a service dog must directly relate to the individual’s disability.  Those tasks performed can include, among others, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, reminding a person to take medication, etc.  Service dogs are protected under Titles II and III of the 1990 Code of Federal Regulations for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This legislation allows service animals to accompany their person into any public facility that allows the person.  Even if the facility has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to a person and their service animal. Service dogs are not considered pets.

A therapy dog, emotional support, or comfort animal is not a service animal under Titles II and III of the ADA.  They are not limited to working with people with disabilities and therefore are not covered by the federal laws protecting the use of service animals.  These animals provide comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, disaster areas, etc., and to people with learning difficulties.  They provide companionship and help relieve the feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc., but do not have the specialized training to perform the required tasks that assist people with disabilities.

There are many examples of assistance, a.k.a. service, dogs that fit the ADA definition.  Guide Dogs or Seeing Eye® Dogs assist blind or severely visually impaired people.  In the United States Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds are typically the breeds used as guide dogs. They are chosen because of temperament, versatility, size, intelligence, and availability. Guide dogs must be large enough to guide a person while in harness, and yet small enough to fit easily on both public transportation and in other public venues.  Two excellent resources for additional information are Guide Dogs of America ( and The Guide Dog Foundation ( ).

Another example is Hearing or Signal Dogs.  These dogs alert a person who is deaf, or who has significant hearing loss, when certain household sounds occur like alarms, doorbells, or telephone rings.  They are trained to make physical contact and lead their person to the source of the sound.  Additionally, a person taking their Hearing Dog into public will be more aware of the environment by noticing whatever the dog reacts to.  Hearing Dogs are generally mixed breeds acquired from animal shelters and are small to medium in size.  The Dogs for the Deaf, Inc. ( ) website provides additional information and resources regarding these dogs.

Other Service Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing.  They can be trained to work with people who use wheelchairs, have balance issues, autism, need to be alerted to medical issues like seizures and low blood sugar, or who may have psychiatric disabilities like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or schizophrenia.  These dogs help by retrieving objects, opening doors, turning light switches on or off, barking for or locating help, providing balance, and many other individualized tasks. They may be of any breed, however the person’s need typically determines the size of the dog required.  A good service dog is not protective, is people orientated, not overly active, and is confident but not overly dominant or submissive.  Additional information can be found at both Service Dog Central ( ) and the Psychiatric Service Dog Partners website ( ).

Next week, Therapy dogs help too!