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The Many Adventures of Skyy the Border Collie

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…and God sent Skyy to our family to bring us great joy.  Our family, in turn, are sharing that joy.  Skyy, a 2-year-old border collie was destined to do great things. He has beautiful soft fur, bearing the traditional black and white markings of his breed and warm, soft, brown eyes that can melt the hardest of hearts.

Early on, he showed signs of being extra special.  At 8 weeks old, he began his obedience classes.  At 8 months old, he began dual classes of obedience and therapy dog training.  Excelling at all tests and challenges sent his way, Skyy passed his Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International tests with flying colors. He is now fully certified, allowing him access to various facilities, including the VA Medical Center, where he visits each Saturday to the delight and anticipation of what has become his best buddies.

The residents in the VA, who gave much in service to their country, ask for so little—companionship.  The men and women who served so selflessly just want someone to visit them, which Skyy is very happy to do.  Along with his family members, Skyy is delighted to spend a few hours visiting and interacting with the patients, residents and staff.  With a happily wagging tail and a very enthusiastic personality, Skyy makes his rounds to an ever-growing list of must-visits.

According to the facility’s volunteer coordinator and our first-hand accounts, Skyy has made a visible (and remarkable) difference.  Patients who are withdrawn and quiet, openly talk to Skyy and share things with him they don’t share with others.  They find comfort and tranquility in petting him.  He listens without judgment and offers calming support, often bringing the peace the patients need and can’t find through other outlets.  His presence seems to bring out what the patients often keep in—things they need or that are bothering them.  Thanks to Skyy, a patient who was quiet during group sessions is now talking during them about their wonderful visitor.  Some veterans who felt they had nothing to smile about, openly grin when they see Skyy.  Other patients who were not initially happy to have Skyy visit, now can’t resist his kisses and they look forward to him sitting on their lap.  One patient even provides Skyy with his own pillow on the bed so they can watch TV together in comfort.  When Skyy leaves, they give each other high fives.

The best part of Skyy’s story?  It’s just beginning!  Skyy has so many more adventures to go on and much more love and happiness to share.  Skyy truly is a dog who makes a difference.

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Therapy Dogs International Achievement

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TDIA Certificate for Skyy!

Yesterday, Skyy and I received our award for completing 50 visits on behalf of TDI-DOG.org. The certificate came with a pin and a thank you letter from the President of TDI. Skyy and I have been visiting the VA Hospital – HJ Heinz campus and HCR ManorCare in the Noth Hills of Pittsburgh since this March.

We have made so many friends in these past months and we cherish our visits every Sunday. There have been several friends whom we made friends that are no longer with us. Each of those lovely people had at least a few moments of relief due to a happy, furry face.

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Our TDI Certificate.

 

2018 Veteran’s Day Celebration

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This year on November 9th, 2018 Skyy and I will be attending a very special day in the Bethel Park School District celebrating and remembering our veterans. Although we have yet to meet, Skyy and I feel a special kinship towards a young man helping in the organization of this event. Matt is in middle school and has a particular passion for aiding our veterans and current military men & women. Skyy and I have heard that he is organizing boxes to be sent over to the guys and gals currently serving overseas, and Skyy’s information will be in there!

If you are a service member and received a box from this school, please comment below (if you are able) so you can let our buddy Matt know what you think!

We can’t wait until November 9th!

Thank you for your service!

The Border Collie rescue 9/11/2001 plus some!

Skyy and I wish to pay homage to Cowboy! Just look at his story below…another amazing hero!

By: Craig Wirth 9/11/2016

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – We have seen the anniversary stories about 9/11. Each is of tragedy and each involves heroes. This is the story of a man and his dog. We first met them right after September 11, 2001. We never forgot them so we went back to find the man. This update and remembrance is special and, definitely, ‘Wirth Watching’.

We all saw the pictures from New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA. They united a country. And first responders became the new symbol of America.

Well after 9-11 it was a story of tributes and a story of heroes. For one Salt Lake man, it was a really special hero. A friend. The man is Dave Richards. The friend was a dog named ‘Cowboy’.

After the attacks of that day, within what seemed like just a few hours, they were at ground zero. ‘Cowboy’ and four other Utah dogs were indeed first responders. Among the best rescue dogs around.

Dave Richards remembers, “When we would ride the bus every morning from the Jacob Javits Center down to the World Trade Center, New Yorkers would be in the middle of the street with signs and flags supporting the efforts at the world trade center.”

For years, back in Utah, they had trained and trained at local construction sites and dumps with other rescue dogs for this kind of a calamity. Something about Dave and ‘Cowboy’ became very special, almost magical.

Richards says, “I think he knew. I think he spoke English. I could tell him anything I could…Get down from there and go there. Don’t do that just wait here for a second. It wasn’t, Stay!”

In a story we did 15 years ago, ‘Cowboy’ showed he could find the scent of a buried reporter in 20 seconds. But in New York it was the real thing. It was walking on top of beams that were still hot from the explosions. And over fires from the smoldering debris.

Dave told me, “I think about what he thought we were doing. You know, he didn’t know the trade centers had come down. He just showed up at this stinky pile of crap and concrete but he was the same dog. It was just like what are we doing today.”

The two looked for a miracle of life in the rubble. But there were no miracles. Just more rubble.

In our chat of 15 years ago, Dave remarked about how ‘Cowboy’ would never give up. And how he never balked at the challenge. Richards said, “He doesn’t have gloves and knee pads and hard hat. He just has what God gave him and he is giving his all in conditions without a respirator and working his butt off.”

For 8 days, they searched and searched. It was demoralizing to know there weren’t any people alive, just bodies. But it was in these conditions where ‘Cowboy’ seemed to sense he might have a unique gift that could bring some moments of calmness and relief to the responders.

Dave says, “If there was a stick on the ground or a ball he would grab it and flick it at you. So these firefighters sitting down all exhausted in a row outside the pile he would come up to them and he would look at them, pick up something and flick it at them and it would whiz past their heads, they loved it so they would find things for him to flick. He helped bring some sanity to the situation because it was pretty bazaar, it was pretty sobering when you got there.”

There was only one ‘Cowboy’. He would go on to work in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But like all heroes, they become lost to the ages. Cancer had set into the little sheep dog. Just as they had spent all the other days, Dave would spend cowboy’s last day together as one. “I took him to Sugarhouse Park and we spent the whole day laying on a blanket just watching the world go by.” A difficult world that cowboy made better, as a hero.

At the time, Dave and Cowboy trained with the Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs. Three other dogs went to New York from Utah to join dozens of others from throughout the county. The last 9/11 dog died this past spring…. All heroes.

Peace of a Border Collie

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Last week Skyy and I visited our local nursing home. We had the honor of visting a patient who was in the loving care of hospice and on her last days. As we moved into the room, we were told that the patient was not doing well at all, but had loved animals their entire life. The patient was curled up in their bed laying on their side. I commanded Skyy “all four” and he promptly jumped up into bed with the patient and laid down allwoing the patient to spoon him. He wiggled up the bed a bit and every once in a while he licked the patient’s chin.

I stood there and was amazed how a high strung, ball chasing nut like Skyy could instantly become an instrument of peace. There is no doubt in my mind he understood the situation, and acted in the peacful and loving way that was not only appropriate, but beautiful and uplifting to all in the room. He was able to demonstrate the undying love associated with therapy animals to help bring peace in a time of suffering.

The prayer of St. Franics of Assisi, the patron Saint of animals, speaks volumes to this adventure:

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life
DFS

How to safely approach a dog.

Skyy had his first adventure at a grade school last week! He was able to interacat with several grade school classes to teach the children how to safely interact with a new dog. I read a book called, “Don’t Lick the Dog” to the children which instructs them how to safely approach a strange dog. Then, they all had an opportunity to approach Skyy and try the techniques the book outlined. Skyy then did some agility, obedience and tricks for the dazzled children. We all had a great time!
Below is a copy of the facebook post the school district posted! Thank to all who were involved!
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The Bellevue kindergarten classes enjoyed a visit from Dan Sadler, Certified Therapy Dog Handler, and his dog, Skyy, on May 17th. Dan is a member of TDI (Therapy Dogs International). TDI is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and their therapy dogs for visitations to institutions, facilities, and any other place where therapy dogs are needed. Dan discussed types of service dogs, their role in the community, and training efforts. He also demonstrated the safe approaching of dogs, dog obedience, and caring for dogs. Skyy is a Border Collie and a registered Therapy Dog.

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