Created in 2004 to raise awareness for working dogs and rescue dogs, National Dog Day is celebrated annually in the United States on August 26 and has become a day to celebrate all dogs, mixed breed and purebred alike, couch potatoes included. Like many dog owners, I often feel like everyday is “Dog Day” at my house. My dogs are family; they eat high-quality food and snacks, they have a wide selection of toys, they sleep on orthopedic beds (when they aren’t on mine, that is), they are walked, groomed, and fussed over. One of my dogs has his own Facebook page documenting his job as a pet assisted therapy dog. The other has his own Instagram where he shares his latest insights and adventures. My social media savvy dogs are not alone. I’ll bet your Facebook feed is full of happy, romping, goofy dogs and their people too. It truly is what keeps me sane. So, let’s all take a moment to celebrate our canine companions and how they make our world a better, more enriching place. And don’t forget to tag your canine-centric social media posts with #NationalDogDay!
In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” And on that note, here is my book list celebrating dogs, especially those that participate in pet assisted therapy.
Sue Halpern’s, “A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher” is by far one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of pet assisted therapy. It’s a true story, following the author’s journey from getting a Labradoodle puppy, training her, choosing a pet assisted therapy program, and going through the rigorous testing process, to becoming a newbie volunteer. The dog is solid, her owner is often a basket case, but they are a genuinely gifted team and this book will have you laughing and crying before you are through as it addresses so poignantly what joins us all in our humanity.
Jane Miller’s, “Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives” is another beautiful book about animal assisted therapy that also addresses what goes into their training and how that compares to the work done by service dogs. The author addresses not only the logistics of finding, training, and keeping both therapy pets and service dogs, she provides examples and research showing just how animals and their non-judgmental presence can help people cope with various illnesses and conditions and ultimately heal.
“The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think,” by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods is a fascinating read for anyone interested in just exactly what is going on in your dog’s head. Hare is a cognitive scientist who has studied and documented the unique way that dogs have developed for getting along with people. Dogs are all about building relationships based on give and take. Seems like there are more than a few humans in our nation’s capital that could learn something from them.
I love everything Alexandra Horowitz has written. Her most recent book, “Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell” does not disappoint. This time around, she examines the canine sense of smell and how we humans can re-learn how to hone this often ignored sense. Dogs use their sense of smell constantly and Horowitz shows us just how much we are missing out on. Fascinating!
For anyone who would like to pursue pet assisted therapy for their own pets, here are just a few national organizations to check out:
And if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please check out the pet assisted therapy organization I work with, http://www.furryfriends.org/ and my own dogs’ social media pages @k9freud on Instagram and Desi, The Pet Assisted Therapy Collie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Desi-The-Pet-Assisted-Therapy-Collie-82605540742760.