At the Diamonds in the Ruff clicker training Aug. 4, dogs of all shapes, sizes and attitudes lined the floors of the dog training facility off Monroe Street. Owners pleaded for good behavior, their hands constantly returning to their treat bag to distract the excited pups, as professional trainers gave short lessons on obedience.
“Click the toss, feed the dog,” said co-owner Carol Byrnes as she chucked a ball in the air and owners clicked in unison when it reached its peak.
Most dogs were there because they didn’t come down the stairs when called, or excitedly ran after people when they saw them. For others, it was because they took off after cars, bicycles or anything moving quickly.
But one dog – aptly named Paddy after Chuck “Paddy” Hennessey, the late owner of Hennessey Funeral Home – was at the training to learn how to comfort people in times they need it most.
“There’s no better place to have a therapy animal than in a funeral home,” said Scott Dahl, the funeral home’s managing partner. “There’s only so much we – humans – can do to comfort each other. But a dog has an innate sense to help.”
At 16 weeks old, the black labradoodle nibbles on anything he can fit his mouth around, and prefers to bark when he isn’t getting what he wants.
But less than eight months from now, he’ll be a certified therapy dog and start taking shifts in the funeral home. For a few hours a day, he’ll roam the lobby, available to anyone who wants to say hello. Part of his training is on emotional recognition – he’ll be able to sense who in the room needs him the most.
“He’ll be able to go over there, wag his tail and put his head on their lap,” Dahl said. He added that Paddy will be in standard Hennessey Funeral Home attire – green bow tie, with his black fur acting as the suit – just like a normal employee.
Dahl had the idea for a therapy dog in the funeral home after seeing hospitals and nursing homes introduce dogs and other animals to patients. The same idea fit perfectly, he said, so they started looking for breeds that make natural therapy animals, and a labradoodle was a popular choice. They found a breeder in Mead and brought Paddy home.
“Because he’s a labradoodle, he’s a mix of two great breeds,” he said. “Paddy is a cute, little guy.”
Dahl took Paddy on a test run last month to the Corbin Senior Activity Center to meet the 100 or so residents.
Paddy was a big hit.
“Every single one of those people wanted to hold him and kiss him,” he said. “Many people came up and said this was a fantastic idea.”
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