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Why Have a Therapy Dog?


Research shows that many psychological (and physical) conditions are known to respond well to trained therapy dogs: depression, anxiety,

trauma and complex trauma, Alzheimer's disease,

Autism, heart disease, cancer, and other conditions. 

Benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic,

the American Psychological Association,  

and the American Kennel Club, 

include increased mood, decreased blood pressure and heart rate,

reduction in anxiety,

and increased levels of endorphins and oxytocin.

The Story Begins

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May of 2020, 

Susan got word that a family in South Carolina

had a mini goldendoodle puppy named Leo

who needed to find

a new owner to shower with love and affection.  

Though they loved him dearly, their original family dog did not adjust well

to sharing space with a new puppy.  

So they reluctantly put the word out:

this funny, exuberant, loving little dog needed to find a new forever home.


Enter Susan

Having moved her practice entirely online to her home office

for the duration of the pandemic,

Susan had been preparing to find

just the right dog to begin training as a therapy dog

to bring into her practice once it was safe

to begin seeing clients face-to-face again.

Enter Leo

As soon as she heard about Leo and saw pictures, 

Susan knew the two were meant to be together.

She traveled to South Carolina to meet and re-home

this young puppy

who had persevered through his share of hard times.

The Journey Begins

It was mutual love at first sight.

Leo happily made the journey to

Northern Virginia where he learned

 that home is a safe and loving 

haven in which he could be everything

a growing puppy needs to be.  

Throughout the pandemic, Susan and Leo participated in

socially distanced training


Soon Leo learned that good behavior 

can open up the world of treats, tummy rubs

and toys in the most amazing ways. 


The Journey Continues

Leo's first experience as a therapy

dog was helping his new human cope with the 

stresses of COVID, ease the sense of isolation,

make the transition to an online therapist,

and learn that squeaky toys are

not relaxing to clients (nor the therapist) during sessions,

whether online or, eventually, in person.

Leo is an adult dog now.  

His training in basic obedience led the way

to a higher level of training,

which he is completing currently.

He has grown into

the fullness of a (reasonably!) well-mannered,

well-trained therapy dog.

He practices his new career during sessions in Susan's office,

delighting and comforting clients as needed.  

He accompanies Susan to sites such

as medical facilities, schools, Assisted Living facilities,

 trauma scenes, and various meetings 

to offer the healing gift of his presence.

Leo also has become an unofficial "member" 

of the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.   

Goldendoodles are a mix of Golden Retrievers and Poodles.  Because

Leo's genetic makeup is a greater percentage of Poodle,

he is considered "hypo-allergenic."


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