James – TDI certified (handler Pete Fitzgerald, Professor of Law at Stetson University)
James, adopted in 2012, is following in the footsteps of his GRRMF Alums Duncan (2009), Hamish (2004) and Paddles (1999) to carry on a long tradition of rescues doing therapy work on campus at Stetson University almost every day with their Law Professor dad.
“Stetson University’s use of therapy dogs goes back more than a decade to our first GRRMF adoption, Paddles, who accompanied me to the office on many occasions and became a much loved regular presence on campus with many students and staff alike,” says Professor Fitzgerald. Paddles, like all of the dogs the Fitzgeralds subsequently adopted, was also registered with Therapy Dogs International (TDI). “That experience with Paddles being on campus also helped Stetson formulate our “Guidelines for Pets on Campus” to address the various issues which arise when pets are present in the workplace – and in our housing since we also have a substantial residential population. With Paddles we also quickly saw that not only the students in my classes, but many others as well, enjoyed and benefited from taking a break to visit the dog – and I would often have students who were not in my classes, and whom I did not really know, come to my office and ask if they could see/talk/play with Paddles or in subsequent years they would do so with our other GRRMF alumni, Hamish, Duncan and most recently James. Having seen that reaction with Puddles, we started a more formal effort to make therapy dogs available to all students at special sessions in the law library during exam periods. We now have TDI and other similarly registered dogs, such as Pet Partners which was formerly known as Delta Society, as of a variety of different breeds available during these exam sessions. Using registered therapy dogs helps insure that all of the animals participating in these programs have been evaluated and show the appropriate temperament to participate in these sorts of sessions, including not only our Goldens but also a toy Poodle, labs, a German Shepherd, a Vizsula and even a 200 plus pound English Mastiff. The students love it!!!
We realized that we wanted any of our future dogs who would be suited for therapy work get their certification after witnessing the reaction our first GRRMF rescue, Paddles in 1999, received when visiting the Stetson campus. In 2004 we adopted Hamish who was an absolute natural for therapy dog work. For Hamish there were not strangers, just friends that he hadn’t yet been formally introduced to. We initially certified him through Project PUP, but realized that we wanted him to have a national certification so he could spend a lot of time with Mother who was in a Life Care facility. We were thrilled when he passed his TDI certification at a testing day sponsored by Golden Retriever Club of Mid-Florida. From that point forward we had all of our dogs TDI registered and would visit nursing homes and other facilities, but mostly were on campus with Dad for informal “therapy sessions” as well as the “stress buster” sessions with a cadre of other dogs around exam times.
We adopted Duncan in 2009 and James in 2012 and have always believed that no matter the age of the dog you should spend time in a training class just to get to know that animal’s personality. James was diagnosed with bone cancer in early December 2015 and every day is a gift. What’s amazing is that he’s still spreading joy where ever he goes – a natural. Especially in the Vet’s waiting room he enjoys visiting with the folks waiting there, either giving them a lean, or offering a head to scratch…a Therapy Dog’s work is never done!
James passed over the Rainbow Bridge February 23, 2016. His memory lives on in the hearts of all that met him along his journey.