Making Amends

On Monday I shared a story of a store owner that kicked out a family with a Service Dog, Golden Retriever Ellie. Well, Susan Ivancevich and Robert Bryant met yesterday at his store to make amends.

First I have the initial video with the man screaming to the family about getting out of his store. Then, you can see the second video showing the apology. You will notice towards the end of the clip how Ellie has just been lying down under the table and not budging during the entire interview. And, you know, of course, that there was much activity there given the crew shooting the film.

I hear that folks in the area have not taken to kindly to this store owner and that some boycotting had already taken place, so prompting his attempts to make amends.


Vodpod videos no longer available.


Vodpod videos no longer available.


A Golden opportunity to help Jack live, love

Caylie, a Golden Retriever service dog trained to help the disabled, is 5-year-old Jack Swiger’s new best friend. Lisa and Eliot Swiger adopted him as a brain-injured infant after a baby sitter caused Shaken Baby Syndrome. That is truly an incredibly noble act, as these children suffer irreversible and quite significant symptomatology throughout their lives.

Caylie, who has been trained by paws 4 people, a charity that uses prison inmates to help train assistance dogs for the disabled, will soon be moving into the Swigers’ home.

Early this year, the family traveled to a federal prison camp near Morganton, W. Va., where inmates work with paws 4 people to help train service dogs. They’d come to find a dog for Jack. But the strain of traveling made it a bad day. The seizures kept coming, more than two dozen. But the family had come too far not to go through with the process.

The folks from paws 4 people said they needed to see one of the dogs take a special liking to Jack – a “bump,” they called it. That way they’d know there’d be a natural bond to build on. The dogs were friendly, but none showed any special interest in Jack. Then Caylie stopped by.

Before she left, Jack froze. Another seizure. “She seemed very sensitive to it,” Eliot recalled. “She just sat there and waited for him. When he came back, she put her head in his lap.” A definite bump, the trainers said.

Caylie’s been visiting the Swigers off-and-on for months now. She’ll move in permanently within weeks, joining the family’s other two dogs, Maggie, a Corgi-Sheltie mix, and Moe, a golden retriever-lab mix.

Jack and Caylie are bonding nicely, everyone agrees. Summoned to come sit by Jack, Caylie trotted over, sat down facing him and placed a protective paw on the boy’s foot. I’m here, she seemed to be saying. “Awww…” Lisa said.

Better to hop on three legs than to limp on four

I got the following story tip below from some great folks at Tripawds, a 3-legged tripod dog resource and help center to learn about and cope with amputation, canine osteosarcoma or other dog cancers, and life on three legs.

Their cool motto is: It’s better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.

Please check them out as well as other resources for our challenged furry family members at our foundation site.


I just love this story about Lab-Golden Retriever Mix Comet, a Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) skilled companion dog from Colorado Springs. It is wonderful that CCI provides support to its graduate teams for the lifetime of the dog, as I am sure that they were pivotal in making sure Comet got the best and most appropriate care.

Veren Betzen, 14, pets his service dog Comet after American History class at Russel Middle School. The (The Denver Post, Hyoung Chang)

Veren Betzen, 14, pets his service dog Comet after American History class at Russel Middle School. The (The Denver Post, Hyoung Chang)

Click here to experience an audio slide show that is truly so moving.
It tells the story in an expressive way that I seldom see.

All the particulars can be found in the great article below:

Three legged dog keeps up care for disabled teen
By Michael Booth, The Denver Post

COLORADO SPRINGS — The timeless act of the faithful dog resting his wet nose on his loving boy’s lap is a bit more complicated with Comet and his master, Veren Betzen. First, Comet has to jump over the arms of Veren’s motorized wheelchair. Second — and it’s a heart-stopping second — Comet now has only three legs to propel himself into the lap of a boy whose legs barely work at all.

But Comet would never let down the boy he has served for half of Veren’s 14 challenging years on the planet. So, the golden retriever-yellow Lab mix rears back on two of his good legs and launches his black nose into Veren’s laughing gut. It was mundane a thousand times over before this winter, when a cancer threat nearly put Comet down. Now, it’s a spectacular act of affirmation that tends to draw a crowd.

“I expect medical issues with my son,” said Verlene Betzen. Veren has been poked, soothed, realigned and sutured since birth. “But when it happened with Comet too — oh, my gosh, that was rough.”

Veren has cerebral palsy, largely immobilizing his legs and limiting the dexterity of his arms and fingers. For seven years, Comet picked up Veren’s fallen books and pens, pulled off his pajamas and put on his socks, and closed the back gate on the way to Veren’s grandparents’ house. For a growing teenage boy, is there any higher use of a dog than tugging on a rope to open the refrigerator?

A friend to draw in others
The purpose Verlene initially meant for Comet was to be a best friend for a boy who might always have trouble making others. And the good-natured Comet became the four-legged shill that would gather in school-age strangers made shy by Veren’s ungainly wheelchair and strained voice.

It worked. At Russell Middle School in northern Colorado Springs, a steady stream of eighth-graders come by to bump fists with Veren and snag some love from Comet. They don’t have to talk about movies or girls or sports. It makes Veren smile just to have someone nearby, scratching Comet’s fur-covered stump.

Comet was limping badly on that former leg in November, whining in pain. The Betzens’ vet took an X-ray and saw what looked like cancer on the right front shoulder. Most dogs with osteosarcoma die within six to 12 months. But the vet suggested more work at Colorado State University’s veterinary hospital. Many tests later, Dr. Clara Goh suspected something other than cancer. Amputation would both treat the symptoms and allow for tests on the spots.

Vets can be far more sanguine about amputation than pet owners, and Goh knows that. “We joke sometimes that dogs are born with three legs and a spare,” Goh said. “Right after surgery, they hop up with minimal help and hardly seem to notice.” They worried that Comet, though, might need all four legs to push a door shut or tug that fridge for an after-school snack. And Verlene fretted that the trainers might not consider Comet a service dog anymore, or the school might not let in a dog that wasn’t providing service.

CSU did two weeks of tests on Comet’s leg and eventually concluded it wasn’t cancer. Possibly a stroke in the bone or a focused infection, Goh said; most important, Comet would survive to Veren’s high school years and his own 10th birthday.

If only he can survive the kindness of bored adolescents. Comet’s first move when leading Veren into a classroom is to park his intact hindquarters near the teacher’s desk and beg for a carrot. “He has protein allergies,” Veren explains, “so he can only have simple proteins like carrots and figs. And he likes to sneak things when no one is looking.”

Verlene is a district-salaried paraprofessional now assigned to Veren. While she attends Veren’s social studies work in Karen Peyer’s classroom, Comet alternates napping and taking jaunty hops down the hall. He knows where the other teachers are who keep carrots, and he knows his way back to Veren.

Keep reading here . . . .

Calendar Beauties: Ryan and Service Golden/Lab Java

Chris Kittredge, a fabulous professional photographer, who does some work for CCI. She shot many photos for this year’s CCI calendar as well as being the editor. My Golden Retriever CCI puppy raising pal, Pat Lawson, sent me the scoop on the team that graces the front cover of the 2009 calendar which is now on sale.

The photo on the front cover is of a local graduate team, Ryan and Holly Cottor and their service dog, ‘Java’. This is such a neat story. Ryan was diagnosed with SMA when he was only a baby. They were told that he would not live to be 2. We were introduced to Ryan and his family at a local CCI event when he was 5.

He had invented an imaginary CCI dog because CCI does not allow kids to apply for a CCI dog until they are 7. Holly told us at a golf tournament luncheon that they were just hoping that he would live long enough to apply.

Well last year, when Ryan turned 7 they applied and received ‘Java,’ a Golden Retriever / Lab Cross, about 9 months later. This year, Ryan celebrated his 8th birthday. He is the inspiration of our group here in Phoenix. As you can imagine, when Holly and Ryan and Java give their story to groups and gatherings, there is not a dry eye in the house. But, Ryan, being the little guy that he is, will not have it. He keeps saying, “Aw Mom, no crying!” We should all be so reminded every day….

Golden Thunder … a much needed best friend

371-6m5passagesembeddedprod_affiliate4.jpg While animals do not always bridge the gap for autistic children, it is a very special thing when they can truly make that all important difference. In this photo by Hector Amezoua, it seems like just a typical family scene. But, it is anything but.

Evan Moulton climbed onto Thunder’s back and giggled. He lay down, put his head on Thunder’s belly, and giggled. He let Thunder wrestle with him and dance with him and shake his hand, and every time, he giggled.

There’s a reason the Moulton family calls their golden retriever “Thunder, the Wonder Dog.” Nine-year-old Evan never used to smile. In fact, for a number of years, he only screamed – a bloodcurdling shriek that lasted for hours.

Dustin’s Paw – Assistance Dogs helping with Learning

This video shows Golden/Lab Mix Ovelle in action, for the organization Dustin’s Paw.

Rachel practicing fine and gross motor skills, colors, shapes and socialization by playing 'baby' with Dustin, Dustin's Paw facility dog.Dustin’s Paw is a very special organization founded by Diane Rampelberg. This photo shows Golden Dustin with Rachel, a visually-impaired student. She is playing “baby” with Dustin, the look on his face telling anyone all they need to know about the special relationships that Goldens can form with children.

Since 2000, Dustin’s Paw has been providing canine enhanced learning activities and therapy for disabled children. Working as an integral part of the professional team, they provide creative, interactive canine/child activities designed to captivate and entice special needs children to accomplish their learning and therapy goals.

Many of the children with whom they work have not been reached by traditional forms of instruction and therapy. By taking advantage of the unique bond between children and dogs, they provide the needed motivation for a child to continue working toward the accomplishment of his or her goals and independence.

We came to meet Diane during our previous Labor of Love Photo Contest, Dustin being one of our contest winners. Here was their winning entry.

Golden Therapy Dog Dustin II

Golden Therapy Dog Dustin II

Golden Therapy Dog Dustin II

“Tea Time with Dustin” by Diane Rampelberg of San Jose, CA. Pictured in Photo: A 5-year-young Dustin II, Canine Companion for Independence Facility Dog, May 2003

In the classroom Dustin does a variety of commands all designed to bring his special magic to encouraging the children toward their goals and objectives. His gentle urging and unconditional love have motivated some children to say their first words to him. Some have taken their first steps with him. Others have conquered fears.

Dustin encourages expressive/receptive language, motor control, both fine and gross, and socialization. He responds to switch activated speaking devices that allow some children to give him commands. Other children learn to hold/release his leash, as well as coordinating their eyes and limbs when they reach to pet him or take him for a walk. He responds to over twelve commands in sign language allowing hearing impaired children the opportunity to learn to communicate. He sings How Much Is That Doggie In The Window to get a laugh or just a smile. He just plain loves children.

This series of photos were taken at Ms. Ginger Brown’s Visually Impaired Class at the Chandler Tripp School in San Jose, CA where Dustin and I have volunteered for the last three and one-half years. Four-year-old Rachel is enjoying Tea Time with her Golden pal.

Golden Retriever Halo, Autism Assistance Dog

Photo by Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News

Meet Golden Halo, an autism assistance dog from Ohio’s 4 Paws for Ability, with her buddy Leo. This organization is one of many that we have listed at our foundation site’s worldwide assistance dog listing.


It is simply an amazing story of how this family from Alaska went stateside to Ohio to get Halo for their son. Click here to learn more about the impact this Golden girl has made. 

Yellow Lab-Golden Mix Rama on the job

A fetching new friend
By Andrea Brown, The Gazette

His younger siblings have play dates and sleepovers with friends. Not 15-year-old Micah Weishaar. He can’t go to the mailbox unsupervised.

Enter a yellow Lab named Rama. The dog is easing barriers for the nonverbal teen with autism and Down syndrome. “We wanted Micah to have a best friend,” said his father, Marc. “We wanted Rama to be able to fill that void in his life.”

Rama breaks the isolation caused by Micah’s disabilities, said his mother, Dayna.
“A lot of times people won’t approach Micah. They’re afraid, for whatever reason. With Rama, it’s a natural bridge.”

Rama teamed up with Micah three months ago. He came from Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization based in California that pairs disabled people with dogs at no cost. “The dogs help children with autism stay focused and calm down,” said spokeswoman Karyl Carmignani.

There’s more . . .

Golden Retriever Service Dog Angel is just that

Boy makes wish for ‘Angel’
By Alex Pickett, Independent Newspapers

Seth Preito had a wish. A big furry wish. And that wish recently came true. The Make-A-Wish Foundation presented the 4-year-old Chandler boy, born with a heart defect and rare chromosome disorder, last month with an assistance dog. The golden retriever, Angel, will not only be a furry companion for the boy, but help him stand and balance. Once he gets older, the dog will help guide him around.

At a recent party inside the home of Seth’s parents, Lisa and Mark Preito, the dog plopped down beside Seth and let the boy put his feet on its back. “He likes to pet her with his feet,” said Mrs. Preito.

Seth had his third heart surgery last October. At this point, Seth cannot speak or walk, and his mental and physical development is hampered by his condition. However, Mrs. Preito said her son’s health has been “fantastic” since the last surgery and he is growing slowly. She attributes the growth to Angel helping him stand and building the muscles in his legs.

The idea to bring a dog into Seth’s life originated at Seth’s school — the Blind Children’s Cooperative Preschool for the Visually Impaired. Once a week, the Chandler school would bring in dogs for animal therapy and Seth enjoyed them immensely. Mrs. Preito, at a friend’s suggestion, contacted Make-A-Wish Foundation of Arizona one year ago to see if they could help.

“We were very excited,” said Laura Toussaint-Newkirk, the communications director for Arizona’s Make-A-Wish Foundation. “It is a very unique wish. A majority of our wishes tend to be Disneyland or shopping sprees.”

Mrs. Toussaint-Newkirk contacted Power Paws Assistance Dogs to find Seth a suitable dog and have it trained. Make-A-Wish Foundation took care of all expenses. Then, he was given to the Preito family and Angel hasn’t left Seth since. “From the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed, she is with him,” said Mr. Preito.

Some of the best moments, he said, are after Seth eats. Angel will come up and lick his face. Mr. Preito said at first they weren’t sure if they should let Angel do that, but then thought it was a good way to build a relationship between the two. Basically, he said, they were sharing — Angel lets Seth lie on top of her and Seth lets Angel lick his face.

Assistance dogs do more than help people gain independence
By Brandy Aguilar / 3TV health producer

Not having the use of your arms and legs or being hearing impaired can be very difficult. That’s why gaining independence is important for people faced with disabilities. One way to get back their freedom is with the use of a dog.

Elizabeth Parkinson spends her time as a volunteer puppy raiser for a group known as Power Paws Assistance Dogs, a nonprofit organization here in the Valley. The group’s mission is to provide help to kids and adults with different types of disabilities. “For those people who have never had children or dogs before, it’s a great place to start because you have a support group instantaneously,” Parkinson said.

Power Paws uses mostly Golden and Labrador retrievers. Parkinson has already trained nine dogs. Oakley is her 10th. Puppy raisers start their work when the dogs are only about 7 to 8 weeks old. Their goal is to teach them 90 commands during a two-year span. Some of those are taught before they’re even handed over from volunteer coordinator Kira Anderson.

Her dog Christie is one of the breeders for Power Paws. “We teach them a few basic commands like ‘kiss’ and ‘snuggle’ and ‘here,'” Anderson said. “We tap them and then try to get them to come towards us.”

There’s more plus 2 very wonderful TV news video clips . . .

Golden Scooby is Dougie’s Best Friend

A boy’s best friend – National Service Dog ‘a blessing’ to autistic little boy
By Jessica Patterson, Special to The Daily News

Scooby and Dougie go almost everywhere together. Dougie Hutchinson, 12, has autism. Scooby, 3, is his service dog.

Scooby came to the Hutchinson family of Halifax a little over a year and half ago from National Service Dogs in Ontario, with help from the President’s Choice Children’s Charity. “In the beginning we didn’t know what to expect,” said Dougie’s mother Paula.

At first, Scooby was a negative part of Dougie’s life. The English golden retriever is very large and he takes up a lot of space. “His nose is wet and Dougie is very sensitive to wet. He doesn’t like wet,” said Dougie’s dad, Scott. It took a while for Dougie to get used to and accept Scooby as part of the family.

The rest of the Hutchinson family accepted Scooby right away. The pooch became their beloved family dog, as well as Dougie’s service dog. And now, they do lots of things together.

Dougie skates, rock-climbs, scooters, rollerblades and rides a two-wheel bike. When Dougie goes for a ride, Paula or Scott and Scooby jog next to him. “We’re going to try downhill skiing this year,” says Scott.

But it wasn’t always like this. “There weren’t any signs that anything was wrong (with Dougie), until about age three,” said Paula, an autism researcher at the IWK.

There’s more . . . .

Golden Kolbe on the Job

Dunn family gets new working dog
New dog replaces Monte who suffered a stroke earlier this year
The Chronicle

Set back by a sad turn of events, the Dunn family is moving ahead one paw at a time. Jacob Dunn, a Grade 2 student at Aldborough Public School with autism has been working with his new dog Kolby. Kolby replaces Monte, a chocolate lab that suffered a stroke this summer.National Service Dogs Canada moved Jacob to the top of the list for recipients of a new dog which he received in August. One of Monte’s key functions will be to keep Jacob from bolting away, giving father, Scott and mother Linda help supervising their son. “I get emotional every time I talk about National Service Dogs,” said Linda. “They have done so much for us.”

Kolby, a 17-month-old golden retriever, is tethered to Jacob to keep him from bolting. “He’s settled in wonderfully with the family,” said Linda.

“It was so traumatic when Monte left,” she said. Kolby was allowed to come home earlier in training to fill the void for Jacob, who still calls Kolby, Monte. “He’s settled in wonderfully with the family,” said Linda. “It was so traumatic when Monte left,” she said.


Companion Dog for Abby

Companion Dog for Abby
By Becky French, Team Facilitator & Mom

If my daughter, Abby French, could read or write, she would want to share the following story about her Skilled Companion Dog Royce. Because Abby was born with the brain malformation, Partial Agenesis of the Corpus Collosum so speaking, learning, playing outside and making friends are very difficult. The dream of having an assistance dog began when Abby was 6 years old. She and I visited the local library often and one of out favorite books was about service dogs helping people with disabilities. Someday, we wished, Abby would have her own dog.I wrote to CCI and received a packet of information explaining the application process. Because of Abby’s young age and the time commitment required, applying for a dog was postponed but not forgotten. When Abby turned 10, her father and I agreed it was time to begin the application process for a dog. Photos and videos, of Abby’s home, yard and family, as well as the long application form were sent. Letters of support from Abby’s teachers, doctors and therapists followed. Over the next 18 months, Abby waited to hear from CCI. Finally, in September 2000, the NER Training Center called to say Abby was invited to team training in November!

Organizing for team training was fun but nerve racking. Traveling with Abby takes extra special planning since new environments make her anxious and she doesn’t sleep much when away from home. But the thought of returning with a Skilled Companion for Abby provided the necessary incentive. Shelley Corson, Abby’s long-time personal care aide, came along to take part in team training and assist Abby when she needed a break from class.

The trip to Long Island took 12 hours in the pouring rain including getting lost several times. Team training was everything that was promised, long days, hard work and lots of wonderful people and dogs. Abby was such a trooper and participated during most of the lectures and practice sessions with the dogs. Trainers Ellen, Josh and Laura Ann were tremendously patient and made us all feel welcomed. At the end of two weeks, Abby was headed home to Maine with a new companion, Royce, a 2-year-old Golden Retriever.

Knowing Royce tells you something about his remarkable puppy raiser, Kathy Mandsagar from NH. People instantly fall in love with Royce due to his calm, loving disposition. He is the perfect dog for Abby. Kathy’s love and gentle guidance offered Royce the start he needed to be a successful Skilled Companion dog.

Because of Abby’s shifting moods and easy distractibility, Royce’s laid back nature is invaluable. Puppy raisers are such generous and thoughtful people and we feel fortunate that folks like Kathy are willing to offer so much of themselves.


On Animal Planet: Golden Santiago’s Tale

Please mark your calendars. There looks to be a good episode on Animal Planet on October 19, 2006 at 9:30am.

It is for the show Adoption Tales: Santiago (Golden Retriever). On this episode, Santiago is trying to escape the fate of other three-legged dogs. The dog handlers at the Assistance Dog Institute feel there’s no reason why Santiago can’t do what their other dogs do, namely become social therapy dogs.

This is similar to the tales of our very own Polar, Therapy Dog (shown here), who also is three-legged, with rear paralysis as well. We have been following his progress and good deeds for over 3 years now.

Polar has a wonderful diary that takes you through a couple of years of his ups and downs, including surgeries and lots of wonderful classroom visits. You also get to enjoy his experiences during holidays and more!
You can check out his diary by clicking here.

Golden to be More than just Pal

Dog to be more than just boy’s pal
By Katie Harp, Princeton Daily Clarion Staff Writer

A Princeton resident is hoping a dog will become more than her son’s best friend. Cody Morrison is working to raise $5,000 for a service dog for her 2 1/2-year-old son Rylan, who suffers from autism and epilepsy. She had donation table set up Friday outside Buehler’s Buy-Low, in Princeton, to promote a candle fundraiser that will help pay for training for the dog.Morrison said Rylan has had Global Developmental Delays since birth and has received assistance from Indiana First Step program since he was 9-months-old. First Step is a state program that provides assistance to families with babies or toddlers who have disabilities.

Global developmental delay occurs when a child has the delayed achievement of one or more milestone. This may affect a child’s speech and language, motor skills, or personal and social skills. Rylan’s development is somewhere between 18-24 months. “He’s had it rough from the get go,” Morrison said. “He has behavioral and sensory issues. His vocabulary is very limited.”

As autism is a relatively new disease, Morrison said many insurance companies do not cover people diagnosed with it. The family has taken out three insurance policies to help cover all Rylan’s therapy, which includes four different therapists that come to the family’s Princeton residence to help Rylan.

When Rylan was diagnosed with autism, Morrison began to research the disease on the Internet and discovered the benefits a service dog could bring to her son. That’s when she found Rachel Miller with Northern Indiana Service Dogs, who agreed to train a dog for Rylan.


One Family’s Experience

Animal Assisted Therapy: One Family’s Experience
By Ann Killion, Autism/Asperger’s Digest Magazine

Our 7-1/2 year-old son’s voice rings through the house, followed by his muffled giggling. No sooner does his voice die down than I hear a burst of activity from another room accompanied by running and sniffing.”1 – 2 – 3…go get your boy,” I say quietly as I watch the scene unfold. “Go get `em Quincy!” Just as quickly as the words leave my lips, there is a leap onto the couch of golden fur and I hear shrieks of glee from our son, Matthew. There on the couch one very excited Golden Retriever named Quincy is lavishing wet doggie kisses on one equally happy boy. Both have butterscotch color hair, both are rolling and panting in glee. I thank God everyday for them both. One I gave birth to … and the other … well…. Let me tell you our whole family’s (Matthew, Mom Ann, Dad Bill, and Certified Assistance Dog Quincy) story.


Mom Thanks Service Dog

Mom Thanks Service Dog: Helps Calm Autistic Kids
By Joyanne Pursaga, Staff Reporter, The Winnipeg Sun

He’s a furry anchor in a world of distractions. Joan Leslie-Thomson said her twin sons, Quinn and Brody, are more safe, calm and attentive, thanks to one special four-legged friend. “No family could imagine it would be as good as this,” said Leslie-Thomson.The twins, who turned 10 on Friday, have autism and communication disorders. They are developmentally delayed, easily distracted, speak few words and have yet to master their own names. Daily activities are a challenge. They need help getting dressed, brushing their teeth and aren’t fully toilet trained.

Autism also heightens their sensitivity to sights and sounds, making walks and outings a safety challenge. “They act on impulse. They’ll just dart out into traffic and not understand the safety issues. We’re always concerned about their safety,” said Leslie-Thomson.

But a new member of the family arrived Aug. 25, teaching the boys patience by example. Keeno, a 15-month old golden retriever, had a nearly instant calming effect on the boys, said Leslie-Thomson.


A Friend and a Comfort

A Friend and a Comfort
By Jill Armentrout, The Saginaw News

As a boy and his dog, Connor A. Good and Bongo are best friends. As an autism service dog, Bongo also is helping 6-year-old Connor find his way in the world.The 16-month-old golden retriever joined the Good household in Saginaw Township in late June, but his training with the nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability agency in Xenia, Ohio, began when he was just 4 months old.