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Interview with Sue Halpern


Halpern: I entered the nursing home with a certain amount of trepidation and was shocked to find out how much fun it was to be there with my dog. By the end of our first day, most of my preconceptions were blown to bits, which was a very good thing, since most of my preconceptions were not only wrong, they were grim. The literature on the positive effects that dogs (and other animals) have in hospitals and nursing homes is getting more robust every year. Dogs lighten the mood for everyone, staff included. Pransky dispenses the best medicine there is, indiscriminately and without a co-pay.

La Farge: The first part of the book is about what you teach Pransky—the complex matrix of training and behaviors required for a professional therapy dog. What did she end up teaching you?

Halpern: My dog has taught me that with her by my side, I can do things that my normally reticent self would never be able to do, like spend time with infirm strangers. But more importantly, and somewhat paradoxically, she’s taught me that by following her lead and being more like her—which is to say, not seeing people as a collection of disabilities, but simply as potential friends—I become a better human.



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 74: Summer 2013
Annik La Farge is a writer and web project manager. Author of the blog LivinTheHighLine.com and the book The Author Online: A Short Guide to Building Your Website, Whether You Do It Yourself (and you can!) or You Work with Pros, she lives in New York City and Hudson, N.Y., with her partner and their seven-year-old Springer Spaniel, Bucky. anniklafarge.com
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Submitted by Patty Aarons | June 15 2013 |

OH WOW!!! Sue Halpern has said it all so elequently -- as she always does. I had to wait until my Skye Girl (Bernese Mountain Dog)was 5 (and settled enough)before I could even begin my long time dream of our succeeding as a Therapy Dog Team. After our training and certification, we began with Children's Story Hours at local libraries and then added visits to a nursing home/assisted living facility with some trepedation. I underestimated my Skye (and possibly myself). We are into our second year of one on one "in room" visits and I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. Skye brings smiles to ALL and absolutely understands when I pick up my tote and her TD vest that we are going to "work!" She races for the door. Her canine sibs know that this is not their thing and, somewhat grudgingly, retire to a spot where they can watch for our return. Skye and I have had a couple "AH HA" moments with amazing reactions of residents to her presence. We are in the process of making available a reading to dogs program at one libray and have all paws crossed that there will be sufficient interest for it to be continued through the school year. Good Job "Bark". ALL your articles are so VERY timely. Thank You ~~ Patty Aarons

Submitted by Carrie Wheaton | October 6 2013 |

My friend runs a non-profit for assistance dogs and we are frequently traveling to interview or deliver dogs to people in need. We listened to an audio version of your book on two trips to a very sad situation. Thanks to you we were able to laugh, a lot, and get some comic relief from one of life's more difficult journeys. Your gift is very much appreciated.

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