Therapy puppy graduates first class

Aug. 03, 2014 @ 06:54 AM

This is the second in an occasional series on a puppy’s path from adoption to becoming a therapy dog.

Peggy Hatley nervously fidgeted on her stool in the dog training ring. After six weeks of hard work, it was time for Raz to show off his skills for his final obedience test. If he passed, he would graduate to the intermediate course and be one step closer to becoming a full-fledged therapy dog.

“We worked really hard last week,” Hatley said.

Hatley adopted Raz from the Pet Partners Network after searching for four months for a therapy dog to work at Carolina Rehab Center of Burke. Even though he was still a puppy, Raz seemed the perfect fit because he was calm and friendly to everyone.

Hatley said that Raz has made leaps and bounds in his work life since first coming to Carolina Rehab June 27. Every weekday, he travelsthere to comfort patients, and he is “intuitive” to a patient’s needs, Hatley said. For example, typically Raz enjoys being stroked but not patted on the head. However, one patient recently suffered a stroke and is unable to do anything but pat Raz, yet Raz shows no negative reaction to it as he does when others pat him.

For Raz’s final obedience exam, he had to obey a command to sit and stay for at least 15 seconds, walk as a group with his fellow classmates and continue walking past a Frisbee full of treats and a pile of new chew toys. As nervous as Hatley was, realized how much good the class had been for Raz and the other dogs.

“They’re so different than they were the first day,” Hatley said. “I would recommend this class to anybody.”

Although a little distracted at times, Raz went through his paces with a little reinforcement. His weak spot was for the chew toys, but he managed to pass the course.

Hatley said she plans to take a month off from classes before signing Raz up for the intermediate course, which will include how to stay when someone other than the owner is calling him, how to deal with distractions and the difference between “wait” and “stay.” Meanwhile, his training will continue at home.