Categotry Archives: Medicine Dog, Therapy Dog

Horse Envy


"I really enjoy being a therapy dog...but when I saw the segment on the therapy mini-horse, I felt a little insecure."
“I really enjoy being a therapy dog…but when I saw the segment on the therapy mini-horse, I felt a little insecure.”

Dogs~ I think I have horse envy. Or at least therapy mini-horse envy. After watching this segment on Lunar and Mystery, two therapy mini-horses visiting a pediatric hospital ward in Chicago, my tail drooped a bit. I know I blog a lot about really appreciating each being’s unique qualities, but today this became a challenge for me. For a minute I wished I was a mini-horse. Luckily, I think I’ve worked it through and can appreciate my poodle-ness again.

Watch the youtube below and you’ll see the amazing healing work these two pint-sized equines are up to. And if you’re a Bay Area pooch who would like to volunteer at a local hospital as a therapy dog, you can contact for more information. Horses aside, they’re always looking for loving dogs!

Pawsitively Fascinating


"The more I find out about the canine brain, the more amazed I am by us fur people."
“The more I find out about the canine brain, the more amazed I am by us fur people.”

Dogs! 60 minutes ran a fascinating story last night about canines and our brains. The piece begins with a focus on a border collie named Chaser, widely considered “the smartest dog in the world,” because of his 1000+ word vocabulary, and his ability to differentiate between nouns and verbs.

An evolutionary anthropologist and a neuroscientist are also interviewed about their work on the canine brain. Through scientific testing, humans are finally finding out that dogs are capable of the receptive language skills of a toddler, as well as inferential thinking…an ability that other animals, even monkeys, do not have. I knew we were smart, but wow.

Scientists have also proven the relationship between a dog and its person releases “the love hormone,” oxytocin. When dogs and humans touch, play, or look into each other’s eyes, oxytocin is released into the bloodstream of both the dog and the person. No wonder it feels so good to hang out with a dog! Pawsitively fascinating.

If you’d like to watch the full segment, you can find it at

Canines and Community


"I'm always on the lookout for people who would make good friends for my human. It's one of my jobs."
“I’m always on the lookout for people who would make good friends for my human. It’s one of my jobs.”

As many of you know, I’m a dogged advocate for tail and fur medicine. Earlier this year, Jane Brody wrote an interesting article for the New York Times Wellness Section called “Life With a Dog: You Meet People.” The piece talks about the many positive effects her dog companion, Max, brings to her daily life.

Max definitely increased the joy, laughter and dog-centered activity in Brody’s life. But it came as a surprise when her level of social interaction was enhanced. Because of Max, Brody met and interacted with people she would have otherwise passed by: “Perhaps the most interesting (and unpremeditated) benefit has been the scores of people I’ve met on the street, both with and without dogs, who stop to admire him and talk to me.”

Loneliness and disconnection are prevalent in our culture. Luckily, we dogs haven’t lost our enthusiasm for personal interaction, so we’re great at helping our humans make new friends. I’ll tell you a story: One of my family members was walking down the street with me on-leash. A young woman was walking toward us and gave us a huge smile. My other human, a few steps behind us, smiled at the young woman, who immediately stopped smiling. It’s true: When you walk down the street with a dog, people open up, and often a conversation starts. If you don’t have a dog, openness is often received with suspicion. With a canine companion, not only are passing interactions more pleasant, but long-term friendships often develop, especially with neighbors and other people who are out with their dogs.

One of the most profound ways a dog can bring balance back to a human’s life is by connecting her to community. So forget the on-line thing. If you want a way to connect, go for the Four C’s:  Canines = Conversation = Companionship = Community.


Therapy Pets!


therapy pets harperWe canines can be proud of all the ways we contribute to our families’ happiness, health and well being. Because of our natural healing abilities, some of us also like to volunteer as therapy dogs. Therapy dogs visit hospitals, retirement homes, libraries, and schools. Some  partner with physical and occupational therapists to work with people who are recovering from injuries. I’ve heard there are even llamas who are therapy pets! I’ve been hoping to meet one to see if we are simpatico, but so far it hasn’t happened.

I have been visiting the oncology infusion center of a local medical center. I really love to greet people when they aren’t expecting to see a dog, and if they want me to, I sit in their laps while they receive their treatment.

If you’re a dog in the Bay Area who wants to work in the community, you can find out more at It’s a really great pack to be part of.


Woofs of Wisdom: Play, Play, Play


come with me, come playA dog naturally values play. In fact, a good playful romp or a morning spent “playing cliff,” (dropping toys one by one off the couch to see what will happen) are at the top of a canine’s to-do list. It turns out, PLAY has a number of benefits for our humans as well:

1. Play and humor increase hopefulness.

2. Play relieves stress.

3. Play is creative.

4. Play is foundational to art. Peter Gray, a researcher on the value of play in humans, says, “doing something just for the fun of it could, in humans, become doing something just for the beauty of it.” This is the essence of art.

5. Freely-chosen, non-competitive play helps children develop into cooperative adults. And social play develops a tendency toward sharing and egalitarianism. Play also develops a connection with others.

6. To play well and keep your play buddies interested, you develop emotional intelligence to attune to the needs and interests of others.

7. An ability to play keeps you feeling young.

8. Play prevents burn-out.

9. Play develops cognitive abilities needed for creative problem-solving and helps you think out of the box.

10. Play is fun.

Consider making it a priority to make a list of five things that sound really fun to you, then get out there and do one this week. Or, you can be like us dogs and make sure you play every single day!


The Promise of a Dog


A Dogs Promise header


The Promise of a Sleeping Dog’s Breath
~excerpted and “poetized” from the postscript in How to Speak Dog by Stanley Coren

At night, when I lie down to sleep,
my old dog Wiz lies on the bed beside me
while Odin lies on a cedar chip pillow
and my puppy, Dancer, not quite house-trained,
sleeps in his kennel.
In the quiet and darkness, sounds are amplified.
I can hear the low, slow breathing
of the big black dog,
the short breaths of the orange puppy
and the occasional sniffle
and snore of the old white dog.
“I am here with you,” a dog’s breath says.
“We will face this life together.
There is no beast or intruder that can steal up on you here,
I am your eyes and ears.
We will share the sunshine tomorrow.
We will explore this world together.
We will laugh together.
We will play together,
even though neither of us is any longer a child.
And if luck turns bad, then when you grieve,
I will comfort you.
You will never need to be alone again.
I promise this.
As your dog, I will sing this promise to you,
and whisper it to you at night,
every night
with my breath.”


Wow and woof. There are many ways we dogs heal and support the people around us. And one of the most profound is reflected in the scene above…through our steadfast companionship, our connected presence, the reassuring sound of our breath as we sleep nearby. A dog’s promise.


Medicine Dogs


Small Poodle at Large | Harper B. | Dog Blog |Medicine DogAs dogs, we are natural healers. We care about the well-being of our families, and use our energy to buoy their emotional and physical well being. Of course, we tend to the basics of health — we make sure our humans take lots of walks…and we let them know they are loved, greeting them enthusiastically each time they come through the door. I make it a practice to greet my human with zeal each time she crosses the threshold, even if she only went outside for five minutes to move the trash can. And she does the same for me.

But studies have also shown that people with pets have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart attack risk. They also make significantly fewer visits to the doctor. The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine has been studying how interacting with animals increases happiness by raising the hormone, oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for helping people feel happy and trusting. So keep up the good work, dogs! With all those naps, it may not seem like you’re doing much, but you make the world a healthier place. There is a lot of power in fur and tail medicine.


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