We Are An Official Therapy Dog Team; What’s Next?


Becoming a Therapy Dog and Therapy Dog Team was our ultimate goal with our “Puppy With A Purpose”. From the moment, when we decided on the breeder; the moment the puppy was identified as “The One” with the correct temperament to be a Therapy Dog; holding him in my arms for the first time; beginning and working through the training process; working at the assisted living centers and schools, as reinforcement for his training; passing the Canine Good Citizen Test; choosing the therapy dog organization we wanted to be a part; testing to be certified and passing it, and then came the waiting to see if we made it through the process. All this was culminated in the moment the packet arrived with our certificates, and Charlie’s Red Heart Tag. WE DID IT!!! Both my husband and myself, along with Charlie are an Alliance of Therapy Dog Organization Team. It was a journey; What a process, What a dog!

Keeping Charlie Focused and Continue His Training

The joy, the excitement, everything finally came together, despite Covid 19! Then the waiting to see when we could go back to work. While we waited, we began working, training to earn some AKC Titles. Therapy Dogs can earn an AKC Therapy Dog Title; Charlie is working on AKC Trick Dog Titles. People love to be entertained with High-Fives, Shake, and Charlie has learned to wave “Bye Bye”. To access information on AKC Titles use the following Link: https://www.akc.org/sports/title-recognition-program/therapy-dog-program/earn-title-qualifications/

The photos at the top of the page, show Charlie practicing a friendly greeting with an employee at Lowes, then Charlie taking the first part of his ATD Therapy Dog Test with his dad, then a photo with the lady who graciously came to evaluate and give Charlie the test, despite Covid 19 being active in our state. Then after he had completed and passed his test, Charlie just laid down on the floor at Lowes, and I laid on top of him. It was like he knew all the work he’d put into his training had finally paid off. I finally encouraged him to get up and I posed with him. The last photo is when we received his certificate and paperwork from The Alliance of Therapy Dogs Organization, and Charlie proudly displaying his new ATD tag.

The call to return back to the school to begin the joy of being a Reading Therapy Dog finally came, in October of 2020. We did a walk through, after school one day, to remind Charlie of the sights, sounds, and smells of the place he loved, but had not been back to in 7 months. He selected certain classrooms to enter. ( I wonder if they were ones he enjoyed the most?) The custodians greeted him, and there were a few children around, which he totally enjoyed that. We spent about 45 minutes just walking around and letting him absorb and remember what his job had been. When we left, he didn’t want to get in the car. He turned around and wanted to head back into the school.

Charlie Fulfills His Calling As A Therapy/ Reading Dog

With great excitement, both Charlie and I arrived at the school. Charlie did what he always did before, he greeted the office ladies. They love him, and he loves them. Then we went down the hall to the room we were suppose to go in. He sat down outside the door, just like he did the year before. It amazed me how he remembered everything he was suppose to do. We went inside, and he greeted each child at their seat, and then he went to the rug to lie down and wait for the story time.

There were a few changes due to Covid 19. Some teachers did not use the rug, some did with small groups. Charlie didn’t care. He completely enjoyed being back to work. He let the children pet him, crawl on him, show him pictures from the book, and in some classes the older children read him a part of the story from their new book. As a part of this reading program, every child gets a book to take home and read.

Each class begins with an introduction of the book to the class, by the teacher. Last year, it was by a guest reader, but Covid 19 changed all that. Depending on the age group, the students either get a picture book or a chapter book. If it is a picture book the story is read to the class by the teacher, and then in small groups, the children either read part of the story or show Charlie pictures and tell him about the book. For the older students who get chapter books, the teacher introduces the first chapter, and then in small groups the children read to Charlie. One might think they’d feel awkward, but those big boys and girls are thrilled to sit down and just read and love on Charlie. It truly is amazing. Finally, the children love to be congratulated for their good reading, and they get very excited when Charlie gives them a High-Five, or shakes their hand.

Before we leave the classroom, a class picture or small group picture is taken of the children with Charlie. Then the children say “Bye Bye” and Charlie waves “Bye Bye” back to them, before going out the door. The photos above show various things which happen with each visit in several different classrooms. Sometimes what happens is almost magical. I am sitting right there on the floor with Charlie and the children, and have the privilege to see the looks on the children’s faces as they interact with Charlie, and I see Charlie’s face and expressions, as he responds to them. It’s truly amazing!

As we leave the school, Charlie tells the ladies in the office and many times the principal good-bye, and we go out to the parking area. Charlie usually takes a quick potty break, and then he is ready to go back in. Many times I have to work hard and coax this 86 lb Golden Retriever back to the car. He doesn’t want to leave. He truly loves his job as The Clear Creek Elementary School Reading Dog.

A Side Note: Charlie has an Instagram account, you can find him @charliethetherapy During the time when Charlie was a “Therapy Dog In Training”, I posted his updates on his account. We were very surprised when we were contacted by Peachtree Publishing Company, and asked if we’d like to help promote their new book about a “Therapy Dog In Training” and the day he, Star, became a certified Therapy Dog. The book is entitled, Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog.

Peachtree Publishing sent us a copy of the book, and I must tell you I cried as I read it. Not because it was sad, but because it was very similar to many of Charlie’s experiences at the assisted living centers he visited. The ending of the book also brought tears to my eyes, as the dog achieved what we were working for, the Red ATD Heart that the Therapy Dog wears on his collar for all Therapy Dog visits. It’s a very prized position for the Therapy Dog Team. Please notice the book in the background behind Charlie. If you are looking for a lovely story to share with a child, this is the book you want. The book is available on Amazon and it is hardback. We had the best time taking pictures of Charlie and the children who came to our home and read to him. Once again this was during Covid so we couldn’t go anywhere.

What’s Next For Charlie and His Therapy Dog Team?

Going back into the school was very exciting, and we are logging our school visits on a log sheet to send to AKC so that Charlie can earn his AKC Therapy Dog Titles. The Novice is 10 documented visits, then 50, 100, 200 and 400 visits. This includes any Therapy Dog Visits that are made.

For me going back to work with Charlie has been amazing. However, my husband has yet to have the opportunity to work with Charlie as a Team. My earlier posts spoke of how initially my goal was to get a puppy, train it to be a Therapy Dog, and go to the schools and let children read to him. However, God opened doors for Mike and I to take Charlie to assisted living centers and together work with Charlie in this capacity. It became something the two of us did in retirement.

Due to Covid 19 the assisted living centers have not yet allowed us to come back. The good news is, we recently found out that our local assisted living center, Cameron Hall, is allowing Sunshine visits. This is where we make an appointment to meet one on one with a resident. We must stay six feet apart, but Charlie can go. Although we are only suppose to have Charlie on a 3 ft leash, we are making an exception and allow him on the six foot leash so he can be near the resident and provide them with the love and comfort they need.

We are planning to go to the assisted living center next week, as it is close to Christmas and make our first return visit since March of 2019. We will be taking a little Christmas bag with things the resident use, and snakes he or she can eat. Our first visit is to one of Charlie’s favorite people. We are taking the treat this resident always gave him when we would visit. I am betting it will be a Grand reunion for Charlie and this dog loving resident. I’ll keep you updated with pictures and information about our visit.