Mobility Service Golden Retriever Morgan — Educating us All

Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook is an absolutely FABULOUS addition to the service dog literature. The authors define it as an A to Z resource book, and it certainly lives up to the promise. Honestly, I have not seen another book like it and can say from all the questions that come my way, that is is desperately needed. I am hoping that it does fill a void out there for the many people who are interested in obtaining a service dog.

There is one caveat, however, to our increasing recognition for the value of service dogs. Sadly, the need and desire for such partnerships far outnumbers the number of available, trained dogs. The training process can take from 1-2 years and many dogs do not make it through training due to various difficulties related to health, noise reactivity, etc.

In the book Marcie speaks to the fact that once she decided on getting a service dog came the disappointment in learning that she would be placed on a waiting list that would span years. And, while she does not address this more fully in the book, it is the reason for the great movement now to provide individual training to folks in order for them to train their dogs on their own and not through a dedicated service dog organization.

Yet, however a dog is trained, once a person has a dog functioning in a service role, this book is an incredible resource. It is truly a must-read for …
1. Anyone considering a service dog;
2. A person who has a service dog;
3. A person who is responsible for the care of a service dog; or,
4. Anyone who wants to learn more about the service dog partnership.

The book had me smiling as Marcie described her current Service Golden Morgan’s ability to open his designated toy drawer to retrieve a toy for playtime. And, it had me tearing up as she detailed the loss of her first service dog Ramona to hemangiosarcoma. This is Marcie with Ramona, a Golden Retriever/Black Lab cross and first service dog from Canine Companions for Independence.

There is so much that impressed me about this new May 2007 publication. First, I was thrilled with its large 8.5″ x 11″ format. The quality is wonderful and the vivid color photos that are interspersed within the book are tremendous. There are several resources and listings of information which are presented so clearly. So many important questions are answered and the guidance that is provided, especially with respect to the tough yet critical issues of retirement, loss & euthanasia, is extremely valuable.

Great resource listings included the following:
1. 50+ Service Dog Commands
2. Important Questions to Ask a Potential Service Dog Agency
3. Basic Service Dog Travel Tips
4. Planning for Separation
5. The Veterinarian’s Service Dog Checklist
6. Safety Tips
7. Service Dog Emergency Kit
8. Service Dog First Aid Kit
9. Important Questions about your Service Dog’s Retirement
10. Strategies for An Impending Retirement
11. The Euthanasia Plan
12. Questions to Ask When Considering Euthanasia / Process of Euthanasia
13. Creative Healing (18 creative activities)
14. Explaining Loss to Others

This was one of our most favorite photos in the entire book. It appeared in the chapter on keeping your Service Dog healthy and happy, so describing the important need for exercise and play.

The photo (courtesy of Kim Alaburda) shows Morgan relaxing after a hard day of work.

The Working Like Dogs Service Dog Guidebook includes the following chapters:
1 — History of Service Dogs
2 — Making the Decision to Get a Service Dog
3 — They Don’t Call it Boot Camp for Nothing
4 — Access to the World
5 — You, Your Service Dog and Your Veterinarian
6 — Keeping Your Service Dog Healthy and Happy
7 — Illness and Retirement
8 — The Death of a Service Dog
9 — Surviving the Loss
10 — Successor Dog
11 — Behind Every Great Service Dog is a Great Puppy Raiser
Conclusion and Reflections
Appendix I: Training, Behavior, and Performance Standards
Appendix II: Service Dog Resources


Here is a wonderful newspaper article about Marcie and Golden Morgan.

Service dog frees owner from many limitations
By Aaron Ogg,The Grand Rapids Press

In many ways, Morgan is the ideal spouse. He fetches the last sock out of the dryer, picks up a dropped set of keys and tucks Marcie Davis into bed at night.

But Morgan is not Davis’ hubby. He is her golden retriever — an essential one, at that.

“Morgan is a part of my body and a part of my being,” said the Santa Fe resident and co-author of “Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook.” “He gives me independence.”

Davis, who has used a wheelchair since age 6, adamantly says there is no competition between the two main males in her life. She said she has a loving spouse who knows his role and lets Morgan perform the tasks he does best.

“My husband is so respectful of my relationship with my service dog because he knows how much I depend on him,” she said.

“It’s great that my husband can help me, but it’s also great that I don’t need that help.”

Davis also has two cats, with whom Morgan gets along swimmingly. That was part of his training.

Davis has used service dogs since 1993. She met Morgan after her first pooch, Ramona, developed bone spurs in her spine that forced her into early retirement. Part of what prompted Davis to write the book was to help owners cope with that kind of loss.

There’s lots more to read here . . . .


Recognizing Therapy Golden Tanner


Marilyn Dunne pats her 10-year old golden retriever, Tanner, who had to retire from service after he recently broke his leg and a veterinarian discovered he had an advanced tumor in his lungs. Photo by Danny Gawlowski, Bellingham Herald.


This story brought tears to my eyes, but I am comforted by the thought that this handsome and very special guy is “living out his days like a king” as he is swimming in love from his favorite people, his many toys, and all the treats he could ever want.

VOLUNTEERS: Longtime therapy dog nears end of life of service
By LANCE HENDERSON, The Bellingham Herald

After seven years of volunteering as a therapy dog in nursing homes, hospitals and classrooms in Whatcom County, Tanner, a 10-year-old golden retriever, is retiring because of a terminal lung cancer diagnosis.

Tanner is also recovering from an accident in which he broke his leg.

“I had so wanted to make the rounds and have a proper retirement party to visit his kids and patients and have a final tail wag,” says Marilyn Dunne, Tanner’s owner and therapy team partner. “But because of the accident I’m not going to have him travel again.”

Therapy dogs are different from service dogs, because they give companionship to many people as opposed to servicing one individual, Dunne says.

Dunne originally got Tanner during a time of grief before she ever knew about therapy animals. “I wanted companionship without all the conversation that people naturally expect,” she says.

Dunne has been a professional social worker in Bellingham for the past 25 years, working with such organizations as Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Washington and Paws Across Campus, a program where Sehome High students help raise and train therapy dogs in conjunction with Brigadoon Youth and Service Dog Programs.

Tanner, though, is not a Brigadoon Dog. When Dunne volunteered, Tanner would just come along. When Dunne saw the impact he had, she got him registered with the Delta Society, an international group devoted to helping people using therapy animals.

There’s more . . . .