Therapy dogs

Four dogs and their handlers tested to become certified therapy dogs on Friday, June 7. From left to right are Laurie Carlson, with her dog, Oatmeal; Michele Byron, with her dog, Lou; Sue Griffin, with her dog, Kali; Kari Koenecke, with her dog, Lillie; and Annette Langer, with her dog, Maggie.

Four dogs testing to become certified therapy dogs passed with flying colors on Friday afternoon, June 7.

Two Labrador retrievers, a dachshund, a Mini Goldendoodle and a Labradoodle, as well as their owners worked their way through a battery of tests, led by Lauri Engness, a therapy dog evaluator with Therapy Dogs International and the PAWS with Heart program at Marshfield Medical Center Hospice Care in Rice Lake.

The dogs demonstrated their abilities to stay; leave treats alone; work well around walkers, canes and wheelchairs; and obey other simple commands. 

Residents, staff and volunteers at Atrium Post Acute Care of Chetek were spectators to the tests, adding another level of distraction that the dogs handled well.

Annette Langer, of Ellsworth, was with her dog, Maggie, a Mini Goldendoodle. Langer’s sister has a therapy dog, and seeing how much her sister enjoyed it, Langer decided to do it as well.

Kari Koenecke, of Cameron, is a hospice volunteer and learned about the PAWS program. She decided the next dog she got would be a hospice dog. Koenecke’s dog, Lillie, is a dachshund. The small breed can sit on people’s laps.

As a mental health therapist, Laurie Carlson, of Rice Lake, brought her Labradoodle, Oatmeal, to work a lot and wanted to get Oatmeal certified as a therapy dog.

Sue Griffin, of New Auburn, had her dog, Kali, a Labrador, tested. Griffin noted that Kali had trained as an autism service dog, but didn’t pass due to separation anxiety. However, Kali still had the perfect temperament and skills to work as a therapy dog. 

Engness brought her dog, Roger, to try a test. Engness cannot certify her own dog, but she ran Roger through a trial test before another evaluator tests them in Eau Claire next week.

After the tests, Engness asked the crowd if they should be passed, to which residents said, “Yes!” and applauded.

As certified therapy dogs, they must maintain updated health records from a veterinarian and paperwork with TDI.