Therapy Dogs come in many sizes with many skills. Some are able to open doors, carry items, steady a person with ambulatory issues, And others offer tactile and mental stimulation that all the brightly colored blocks or jingle , jangle toys can't meet. This is "Abram" Hope Ridge Irish Whiskey. He comes from a solid line of dogs who give from the heart.
Abram born to Champion Lines, bred By Mary Phelps of Hope Ridge Kennel, South Carolina was the most gorgeous pup in the litter. However he had a very , very mild kink at the base of his tail. One that would have been forgiven by most judges thanks to his overall conformation and movement.However Mary looked into the boy's deep brown eyes, and realized he had a different path ahead of him. He began his training as a Therapy and potential Service dog in the Whelping Box. When Abe was 18 months old he met Rebecca of Southridge Kennel. Rebecca, Her Moms and siblings are all well known, long time members of the Ridgeback Community . On June 19, 2008 Rebecca experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury leaving her barely alive, unable to breathe for herself, move or verbalize. Doctors assured her Moms they should "warehouse" her, as there were no conventional Medical treatments that would offer any hope of recovery or improvement. Being Hard Headed Kathy Lyons and Linda Windford refused to accept that prognosis. With Faith and unending hard work they have brought Rebecca, one baby step at a time, along the road that one day will allow her to live a life far fuller than any of the specialists thought imaginable. Part of the help that Rebecca has is daily interaction with the Family's Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Between the overwhelming work, the worry and lack of encouragement. Rebecca was kept away from the family dogs to begin with, But Thanks to Mary and Abram the Ladies were able to see how the dog was able to reach a part of Rebecca locked away in silence. And they rediscovered how much they missed having their hounds taking part in their daily lives.
Seeing Abram and Reba interact with Rebecca on a visit in Charlotte, North Carolina , where Rebecca under goes Hyperbaric Treatments It was quickly apparent that she responded to the gentle breathing against her skin, the feeling of muzzle and whiskers as they tickled her face , hands and legs. When the Dog would move away Rebecca became distressed. A child who was thought incapable of having a thought, began to communicate, first to the big boy she wanted him close by. And then to her Moms how much she was enjoying the contact. With out coaching or command Abram settled his large body on the floor to lay his head across her leg. She began to relax. Not falling asleep, just enjoying the contact with this Healer who did not poke, prod or make demands of her. That solid and gentle acceptance gave her such peace. Because of the success of Abram and Reba's visit Rebecca is now routinally given time with other Ridgebacks. The photo to the left was taken at the 2009 Rhodesian Ridgeback Rodeo. The Puppy , "Keela", Bred by Karen and Eric Watson of TerraCotta Kennel had never been around a Special Need's Child, yet once again Good Breeding tells. Keela was placed in Rebecca's lap, She investigated the Baby, as all puppies will... but instead of launching into puppy games of mouthing and wiggles she settled gently into Rebecca's lap, bracing her own puppy body against the wheelchair arms to keep the majority of her weight off of Rebecca. With Big Sister, Rosemary nearby, Keela and Rebecca spent a very long time commnunicating with each other. Fingers that were never supposed to have feeling let alone movement, moved against Keela's soft baby coat. Eyes that are not supposed to reflect the person inside, tracked and then stayed locked on Keela despite the normal chaos of Rodeo activity. Within 10 minutes Keela laid her head softly on Rebecca's shoulder and snuggled into her neck. Carefully ignoring the trach, making no effort to groom. Keela just matched breathing patterns,becoming a living bio feedback "machine" that calmed and delighted Rebecca, at the same time. The other Rodeo'ers sitting nearby or wandering about with hounds on loose leads all had to take a moment to reflect on how amazing the breed is. Zero training or exposure. No way to know what was to be expected, once more a RR met the needs of a non verbal child. You can see more about Rebecca and Her family on http://www.rebeccaofsouthridge.org/ Where Love + Prayers = Miracles!
Ch. Windridge HeatWave Bwana CGC TDI HIC "Jasmine"
We have a very strong sense of pride in the ability of the Ridgeback to meet theraputic human needs. Something was not deliberately considered in the genetic designing of the breed. Our own line has exhibited an incredible ability to recognize and reach out. "Jasmine" My Soul Puppy demonstrated over and over her keen awareness of my health and struggles. She was able by simply scenting my face and breath, to predict medicine induced seizures. On no less than 6 occassions she alerted, even climbing into my lap twice forcing me to pull off the road while driving. Within minutes I seized (I still have nighmares of what would have happened had I been in traffic!) It took the better part of 3 years for the doctors to find the problems and return me to being able to feel safeto drive myself once more on the road.Yet my Ridgeback was never wrong once. I never doubted her alerts.
Yet another of our Hounds, in whom we have taken endless pride was Jasmine's Mate, "Bo" A massive boy of great power he exhibited endless gentleness and awareness of the need to take great care when playing with our small children and frail , elderly Mom in laws. While Bo passed his Therapy Dog International Test easily , it was interesting to see the extra challenges that the evaulator threw at the big dog. But growing up in our home there was literally nothing, not wheelchairs, crutches, crashing pans, screaming kids or crazy adults that could phase him. My mother and Bo adored each other. He loved her every day of their lives together. When Mom began the inevitable slide from Altzhiemer's it was painful for all of us. He simply accepted it. As she began to forget us, withdrawing into a shell of herself. Bo understood one of the issues we had to deal with was Mom's determination to "escape" She would wait until she felt she could slip out the door and then she was gone. She had not gotten farther than the front yard , we'd instaled an alarm to alert all of us only to discover Bo had her covered. We lost count of the times we would find he had gently taken her hand, ( her skin was so frail it tore or cut when brushed too briskly with a towel!) and lead her to a recliner in the front room. The whole house could hear her scolding and fussing. He would bump her carefully until she would topple into the overstuffed chair. Then he would sit on her feet! Unable to push him away she cussed, fussed and scolded. At times pounding on his head and shoulders demanding he allow her to get back up. We would find them this way. He patiently understanding it wasn't "her" it wasn't "him". The last time I saw my Mom, we were in Southern California at a Dog Show. Mom had been visiting the West Coast Family, to give every one a chance to say good bye to her. She would be flying back to rejoin our family in 2 weeks. She no longer knew any of us. Not my husband, Myself or even her beloved grand daughters. But upon Spotting Bo she began to scold and fuss, asking him where he had been? This is the last photo I have of my mom as she passed away in her sleep a week before her flight home. He never left her side at that show, not even to go to the ring. Simply standing next to her, listening to her every word. While my mom's memory of her human family had been stolen by this cruel disease. She knew, without a doubt Bo was her friend, he could be trusted and he loved her. Upon our return to Alabama we were awakened in the middle of the night by Bo who keened and howled for some time. Inconsolable, The phone call came an hour later. Mom was gone. No one doubted he had somehow known.
Over the years we have found our Pack has offered a level of care and security that is far superior to the devices and technology the world has offered. When our Preemie Grandson experienced a SIIDS incident it was not the heart and breathing monitor that alerted us it was the Pack. Every child after Tris ( and we have raised 5 grands in our home) have had the added help from the RRs that could not be trained or anticipated. It was not uncommon to find them in the nursery, and or even the baby's crib!
We have many stories after 30 years in the breed of personal experience with these amazing dogs. Of Bwana's Ezekiel Biko , "Zeke" who not only alerted to his owner's employees with both Diabetes and Epilepsy , but he alerted to Denny's proufoundly clogged arteries, upon watching Zeke alert I convinced the fmaily that Denny needed to have a check up, with in 3 days Denny had a Quad Bi Pass, the doctors shook their head in amazment, Denny it seemed had what is often called a "Widow Maker "condition. A silent, zero syptoms heart problem that is found when the Heartattack hits and kills the patient ! The Cardiologist felt Zeke was able to recognize the limited O2 levels fromt he compromised circulation. To this day Zeke lives the life of a King on the family's Texas Ranch.
Of Atlas and Athena who transplanted with our one of our puppy families to the "wilds" of Maine. After a lifetime of living as part of the home and family in Southern California they were finding the new life of living in a custom kennel to be beyond difficult. Finding new ways to escape the ever increasing new kennel was creating constant issues in the home shared with in laws. Sadly not every one is a dog person and the young family was caught between a rock and a hard place. Expecting another baby, dealing with financial concerns the frustration of not being able to change and control the hounds was forgotten when their then 4 year old son managed to escape the house. A large and wonderful house it was not built with small children in mind. The boy made great time wandering onto the large densely wooded estate. It was cold, between the ravines, slides, creek beds and local wild life it was a most dangerous place for a small child to be alone. Atlas and Athena managed to escape once again the now 7 foot kennel walls and track the boy. It took time for the local law enforcement to locate him, using helocopters, mounted police, personel from 2 different cities and dogs they quickly radioed the family to have the parents brought with great haste. The child was curled up asleep with the two great hounds standing guard. No one was touching this boy until his parents got there and okayed it.
We have a Number of Pups who to our great pride have become International Therapy and Delta Dogs. Dogs that have saved lives, offered great comfort, improved patient interaction , even giving a service as simple as being the Library Dog, a contented happy dog who children with Reading issues can read to , they don't correct, rush or judge. Just enjoying the time in the child''s company. What a gift that can be to a child who feels as if reading is impossible for them. Total and Unconditional Love.
Our California Hounds long removed from our influence have worked steadly with the local Nursing and Residential Care homes. Song an American and International Show Champion has switched easily from theshow rings to the role of Therapy Dog. She is pictured here working with one of her most ardent fans, Miss Joyce of the Chancellor Home in Sonoma.
CH. Int CH. Bwana's GentleSong ofthe Boma TT HIC
Along with Song , her owners Gaynl and Paul Bachman Smith, have a veteren therapy dog, INT CH Bwana's Country Roads TT CGC, Cruiser began life with a mild heart murmur which Gaynl and Paul have kept in a controlled status by keeping the boy well cared for and lean. He is also a 2 time cancer survivor with grade one MCTs. Cruiser's incredible adventures in Therapy Dog Work began with the Delta Dog Association. All of his training and handling has been done by his first time Therapy Dog owner Gaynl a retired RN and Pastor. He brings more than kind eyes and a gentle heart to visit his large size adds a good deal of excitement and pride to the folks who rooutinally want him to spend time with them. I know someday all f us may face being in a place where owning a dog may be impossible for many reasons. I can only pray we are lucky enough to have firends like Gaynl, Song and Cruiser! Kennel Mate, Annie and much younger Niece Dance willl be in training very soon allowing the guests of places like Chancellor a loving visitor who never watches the clock or asks annoying questions!