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Does Fido Have the Right Stuff?

For support and comfort, there’s nothing like a dog

Louie joined 20 humans and 18 dogs to see if they had the right stuff to work as PetPartners bringing love to help share the love.

So your dog is a secret too good to be kept?
    That’s the kind of dog Caring Canines wants to share with people who need some extra love, support and comfort. Breed doesn’t matter. Even my beagle-terrier-you-name-it mix, Louie, a Hurricane Katrina rescue, made the grade.
    Heart, health and good manners are what matter — in both humans and dogs — in the Caring Canine’s weekly training and ultimate testing through PetPartners, an organization that has been approved by the American Kennel Club to certify therapy dogs.
    Twenty humans and 18 dogs tested this month at Loews Annapolis Hotel. Dogs of all shapes and sizes passed, while other dogs were asked to come back in March to retest. I had one of each: While Louie passed, my much-more-likely-to-succeed Doberman, Mayday, was asked to come back another time because of a scraped paw (no wounds allowed).
    Certified teams visit nursing homes, help with library reading programs (dogs — some at least — love it when kids read to them), help in Hospice of the Chesapeake programs and, ultimately, make you feel like you and your dog made a difference in someone’s life. That’s a big responsibility, so train and test your dog to be friendly in demanding situations.
    Can she sit quietly by your side while someone comes up to greet you? This can be a challenge for dogs like the outgoing golden retriever who can’t wait to greet and bring a smile on the face of the serious tester. Not allowed. But, with training, even the feisty ones can hold back.
    Will he accept petting, even to the point of manhandling? Louie thought the checking of his ears and tail was a bit odd but maintained his confidence that this too would pass.
    Does she smell good? Bottom line clean dogs only, and no matter how clean your dog, can she tolerate brushing? My dachshund failed this portion of the pretest but Louie, much to my delight, decided not to be offended.
    Can your dog take on the challenge of walking by your side, even through a crowd, without your having the urge — or need — to hold on tight? It’s hard not to as you navigate twists and turns through a somewhat raucous crowd of unruly patients with walkers and canes. Many a handler lost points for keeping a tight leash.
    When things thump on the ground, does your dog run for cover? Oops. My dachshund, Rosie, could not test because, quite reasonably in my mind, at eight pounds, she thought huge flying metal objects were a reason to run for cover. Louie on the other hand, couldn’t care less.
    Of course your dog can do sit, down, stay and come when called at home. But how about at Loews? One of our testing pack, Sasha, a miniature mixed-breed, preferred walking around the room and sniffing.
    Finally, we had to shake hands with a stranger with a dog. I thought this would be our demise, but Louie was only interested and did not jump all over the new dog. Thus, to my delight, we passed.
    While Mayday heals for her new test, Louie and I can’t wait to begin working for Hospice of the Chesapeake, possibly in the bereavement program, but wherever there is a need for mutt love.
    Caring Canines holds weekly Thursday therapy training classes at Dogwood Acres in preparation for Pet Partners’ tests.

Caring Canines contact: Erin Bogan: ­ebogan@dogwoodacres.com.