Golden Retriever Soo – man’s best friend

Canine accounts – Wheelpower
By Anthony Thanasayan

. . . a wonderful account of true canine loyalty: a group of disabled friends and I, comprising the blind, those in wheelchairs, the learning disabled, and the elderly, visited Razak Walk at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong, Selangor, on the fourth day of Chinese New Year.

Razak Walk is a special area in FRIM which has disabled-friendly features so that the handicapped can enjoy the wonders of nature. We were there to give user-friendly advice regarding the facilities. I took Soo, my Golden Retriever.

No sooner had we arrived when it started to rain heavily. There was no place to take shelter. We had to stay under the pelting rain for half an hour, with umbrellas above our heads.

Though I had some protection with my brolly, Soo didn’t. He was drenched. This was the first time Soo had been caught in such a situation but he never budged. He just stood there in the rain with me for the full half hour.

Any other canine would have headed for cover but Soo stood virtually motionless and completely focused. As far as he was concerned, he has the most important job in the world, which is to never leave my side, no matter what.

That’s man’s best friend for you, folks!

Reading with Golden Retriever Roby Program

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Canine coaxes kids to read at school – Dog’s magic related to a lack of intimidation
By Sharon Wernlund, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

For 3 1/2 years, a golden retriever named Roby did her best to make life a little easier for Amy Yeater’s husband, Jeff, as muscular dystrophy gradually robbed him of his independence.

The Stuart couple adopted the 58-pound pooch in October 2000 from Canine Assistants, a nonprofit organization in Alpharetta, Ga., that raises and trains service dogs to help people with physical disabilities or other special needs.

At 17 months, Roby could flip on a light switch, retrieve a fallen pen and even open the refrigerator with a hard tug on the bandana tied on the door’s handle. She was also her master’s legs, pulling his manual wheelchair wherever he wanted to go.

In April 2004, when Amy Yeater mourned her husband’s death, Roby mourned, too. “She was lost without him,” recalls Yeater, an educational consultant in Palm City for Bessey Creek Elementary’s special education students. “She was so used to being out every day and performing a function. Suddenly she had no purpose.”

Wondering what to do, Yeater spent her summer vacation in search of answers. By fall, the gentle canine had a new role as her partner in education in the school-based Reading with Roby program. Since August 2004, Roby’s been a faithful friend and reading companion for students of all ages at Bessey Creek, in both the regular and special education classrooms.

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She mainly serves students in kindergarten and the first and second grades who either are just learning to read or need a little extra help with their early literacy skills. Every Thursday and Friday, the dog is escorted to seven classrooms from 8 a.m. to noon for 30-minute sessions in which five or six students, identified by their teachers, read one-on-one with her. And when someone stumbles on a word or a passage in a book, either Yeater or her volunteer is there to speak for Roby.

“I hear back from teachers that the best way to get better at reading is to practice,” says Yeater, 38, of Stuart. “This is a non-intimidating way to practice reading, and it gives Roby a purpose.”

There’s much more . . .