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Friday, June 29, 2012

Challenge Reminder

The deadline for the CHALLENGE  
is tomorrow!!!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

If you can help please do....

Gopher and I send our best wishes out to the families effected by the wildfires in Colorado. 

If you are able to help please contact the Pikes Peak Chapter of The American Red Cross to make a donation. ( 

Please also do not forget our non human animal friends are dislocated as well.

To help contact:
Larimer Humane Society
Also to our peers, the therapy animal teams, who are responding to provide comfort to the victims who have been dislocated, the fire and emergency personnel who are working long hot, danger hours, and the other volunteers via Animal Assisted Crisis Response. Be safe, do good, give comfort.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Personal information obtained on therapy visits is confidential. When applicable the name/location/sex/condition of persons visited may be changed to protect privacy. However, the interactions, conversations are true and did occur as written. 

Gopher, Chad,  Squirrel and Carla are all volunteers. They do not officially represent any institution that may be mentioned.
Marge is coming to the end of her life, she is fortunate in that her care can still be administered at home and she is able to stay with her husband, and spend her final time in a familiar place. Upon first appearance she would remind most of their grandmother older, somewhat frail, but still full of life. Her body has begun to betray her and she has lost her sight, and now is also losing her breath. We have been visiting with her for a month at the time of this entry and she quickly rose to one of Gopher’s favorite patients, and he now whimpers in excitement as we approach her home.

We always arrive to big smiles and find Marge in the living room anticipating the visit, often with a treat already in hand (might be a reason Gopher has elevated her to a favorite).  He takes the treat and immediately turns and sits in front of her. She pets him all over on the head, chest, rubs his ears and scratches his butt. During the petting she visits with me and talks to Gopher often about what a good boy he is, and how nice, calm and gentle he is. She will bury her face in the fur on his back and draw in a deep breath; she places her ear to his side, and holds it there for a minute, seeming to take him in with three of her remaining four senses.

She will then sits up for a few minutes and ask about my week, and how many people we would be seeing that day. Gopher performing his job admirably provides some therapy to her husband and or her son during this moment of rest. He then returns to her and the process starts over again, and continues until it is time to leave and then she gives him a final treat and thanks him for letting her pet him, and thanks me, as it is welcome to have this life in her house since she is not of good age or health to have a dog of her own anymore.

In her conversations with Gopher, the ones not meant for me, she lovingly tells him, “I wish I could see you, I am sure you are beautiful. They tell me you are red and not blonde. I like redder Goldens. How I wish I could see you.” The words are not for me but for Gopher. It is one of the many times in my experience, where is best to let the patient speak, and not engage in a conversation. After several weeks of hearing her say this though it takes strength not to reply, and here is where I get a bit cheesy.

I want to tell her that Gopher’s coat shines in the sun, reflecting the light and showing off many colors from dark red to very light blond, that he almost has a sparkle to him indicative of the term Golden in his breeds name. That although she might not see the sparkle she can feel it in his gentleness the need to lean into her so she knows she is not alone and the warmth of his body. That he has a big smile like many Goldens, and that he has one right now as she talks to him, a smile and stare that in that moment she is the only person in the world. That his eyes are so brown and expressive that even I can feel their gaze upon me if my eyes are closed or he is behind me and it brings me relief when I am scared or hurt and if she takes a moment I am sure she can ‘feel’ his gaze as well. That through her touch, the feel of his fur on her face and breath on her hand that she is ‘seeing’ Gopher in ways not many of his even closest friends have been able to see him. That in her moments with him she sees him as I do.

It is not my place to say such things to her, and it would take from the moment. I look forward to our visits with Marge as well, her stories of a life well lived and I am thankful to her that in her final time she has allowed Gopher and I to share this time with her.

Reminder, a note, and COMING ATTRACTIONS:

Challenge: We only have one entry so far we hope to have more please get your entry in by the end of the week for consideration. Details

Gopher and I have also been given an honor by our friend Garth Riley, and we are so happy, but it requires some thought so we will be writing about it soon.

Coming Soon:

Gopher gets toys thrown at him while visiting.

A thank you and information on getting your very own trading cards from CustomSportsCards.


How did I get here?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gopher's Limo

Gopher doesn't work all the time. His favorite activities include chuck-it, seeing some of his favorite people and cruising in his limo. Well it isn't a limo, but it is my 1966 Chevrolet Bel Air, like many dogs, Gopher never misses a chance to go for a ride, but is especially exuberant when we go in the sixty-six. Don't know if it is the increased visibility or the fact it makes Dad so happy when we drive it.

Come on Dad it's time to go.

Yes, he does sit with me in the front seat, but is always buckled in with his special harness seat belt. He is not a fan when I buckle him in and don't hop in right away.

We're going cruising.
As soon as I hop in though it is nothing but smiles.


I have had my 66 (Roxanne) for nine years, and no matter where we went she always would catch someone's eye. Add Gopher to the mix and we catch people's eyes and give them a laugh. Most of the time we cruise just like this, but sometimes we both need to let our heads hang out the window to feel the breeze through our hair.

When we go for a cruise we tell Carla we're going out to pick up chicks.

"Alright Dad, drive real slow, and don't tell Luna, Kodi or the others, but here comes that Irish Setter I was telling you about."
Time for the dignified, poised look. "Dad do you think she noticed me?"

Sometimes after cruising for a while, Gopher tires of the window and has to come in real close.

This position, which is leaned into me and difficult to take a picture of, always gets me to humming the Cake song, "Stickshifts and Safetybelts"

Happy Friday everyone, have a great weekend and don't forget about the Challenge, all entries due by June 30th.

We're outta here!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another two years, Gopher are you ready?

"Gopher, are you ready to go work?"

His ears pull back, his eyes widen, and his tail wags as he stomps his front paws in anticipation. I slip on the gentle lead and the four foot leash reserved for visiting. He doesn't have time for pats and kisses from Mom as he is ready to spring out the door for the car. At the curb the dancing continues until I open the door and he bolts inside. Away we go, and once we are within a few blocks of arriving to the facility, or home, or hospital he begins to bounce from side to side in the backseat letting out whimpers and whines of excitement in anticipation of the visit. We park and I open the door, he does not jump out as he knows not to get out of the car until I have grabbed his leash or instructed him to do so, "Gopher, are you ready for work?" a gentle wag and lick on my cheek. I grab his leash and say, "Alright lets go to work.", his paws hit the pavement, the grass, the gravel and his demeanor changes. He is focused, reserved and ready. I have seen this change in temperament over 800 times in the last 21 months, and not once has it ceased to amaze me. My boy loves his job.

In the last 21 months we have visited 1,789 patients, families and medical staff. He has consumed over fifty pounds of treats.He has visited for over 480 hours.We have attended over 250 hours of continuing education and training. He has loved every single person he has come in contact with, and has shown me and taught me more than I would have thought possible. I have had the opportunity with patients, family, staff to hear stories about members of our community I would have not had the opportunity to hear otherwise, and share in moments so endearing, captivating, and sometimes tearful that I was driven to share some of them with you.

Today, however, we were at risk of it coming to an end.

Our national group that carries our liability insurance is Pet Partners, formerly Delta Society, has a requirement that all animals be reevaluated every two years. Although this can be somewhat stress inducing I enjoy this requirement as it makes sure our handlers and their partners keep up on their skill sets keeping their partners, the patients and themselves safe.

The renewal process involves a questionnaire and a practical exam. The practical exam is the same for a renewal as it is for a first timer. Your partner and you are evaluated individually on how you perform in 21 different excercise, encompassing basic obedience, being bumped into, loud noises, crowded clumsy petting, shouting etc. Gopher was evaluated on how he responded, how he interacted with these elements. I was evaluated on how I handled him, cared for his safety, and interacted with our mock patients.

Here are some photos from today's evaluation.

It only took a half hour for the exam. Gopher seemed to do well, and my anxiety was quickly purged when the evaluator told us we had passed. She would need a few minutes to tabulate our scores and make final notes. In the 21 areas you can are scored either a NR (Not Ready), a 1 or a 2. One NR and you will not pass, an average score of 1, you pass and are able to visit in 'Predictable' environments, an average score of 2 and being tested in an environment where you did not train and you are able to visit in a 'Complex' environment. 2 is the highest score you are able to receive. In 20 out of the 21 exercises Gopher scored a 2 and in 21 out of the 21 exercises I scored a 2. So we were given a 'Complex' Rating for the second time, and nearly had a perfect score, more importantly we have been approved to continue visiting for another two years. Our comments included, "Great handling skills, very attuned to animal." and "Great obedience skills, 'people' skills. Work together very well as a team." Had we not passed today we would have had to cease visits immediately until we were evaluated again, and passed. I did not expect to score so highly again as perhaps a bit of arrogance did not have me do a lot of brush up work.

So two more years, more stories and experiences to come.

"How about it Gopher, are you ready to go to work?"


Please don't forget to check out, the Challenge!! All entries due to by June 30th!