Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello Birdie

Like most us the opening of Cruise Dog Park was life changing, making new friends, canines and people alike. Sheana a transplant from California followed and anticipated the parks opening for quite some time. After moving here Sheana needed a new best friend and since her family has always adopted their pets decided to following in her family’s footsteps. Sheana got Birdie as her first “on her own” dog from CARE. CARE (Castaway Animal Rescue Effort) located here in Springfield is a no kill, non-profit, state licensed animal adoption facility. This is where the new best friendship was born and Birdie beloved by the caretakers of CARE was lucky to find such a dedicated best friend as Sheana.

Birdie a sweet energetic beagle mix is pretty well known around Cruise Dog Park. You might have even seen her at the Dogfest, Swim or Bark in the Park. Sheana and Birdie keep themselves active in the doggie community. So much so that in half the time it takes most dogs to meet and greet, Birdie has made her way around to say hi to her many friends, people and dogs alike. From time to time, you might even catch her dancing on her hind legs in a circle. It is a real treat when she is in costume and doubly so when that costume is a tutu. This little canine ballerina is one doggie that is always on the go.

With all that energy Sheana quickly realized that Birdie needed focus and purpose. Sheana a bright working woman was elated when Cruse Dog Park opened because she finally had a safe fun place for Birdie to run and socialize. However, Birdie proved that she could and would do more. Together they worked hard at training and were tested, have accomplished a Canine Good Citizen Certification. According to the AKC the Canine Good Citizens award is two part program that teaches the owner the skills necessary to raise a well behaved dog and the dog the skills necessary to be a well behaved dog. This certification issued by American Kennel Club recognizes Sheana as an outstanding pet owner and Birdie as a well behaved family pet.

Since Sheana did an outstanding job training Birdie she hopes to continue, their current goal is to complete the training and certification necessary for Birdie to become a therapy dog. Many therapy dog programs exist and certification is possible through private and local programs like Therapy Dogs International. Although the AKC does not offer therapy dog training their Canine Good Citizens certification is often the prerequisite necessary to becoming a therapy dog through one of these other programs.

It is Sheana’s hope that Birdie will be able to work with special needs children. Specifically Sheana would like Birdie to work with children with Autism. The idea that a dog can have a positive impact on individuals with disabilities in not a new idea but research is showing that pairing a trained dog with an autistic child can be very beneficial to the development of the child. Even the earliest therapy dog for autistic children programs from 2000, Dr. Francois Martin at Washington State University describes the type of dog that would work well for this type of therapy. He states, “What I want is a dog who is very forgiving, people-oriented, and if a person is behaving strangely, the dog will look at the therapist and say, `That kid is behaving strangely, but it's all right with me.'' Anyone who knows Birdie can attest to the fact that she is sweet, smart and certainly seems to have the personality for such a job.

It seems that CARE found in Sheana, Birdie’s forever home and the two are a match made in heaven. From the very beginning Birdie has delighted Sheana with her abilities and fantastic personality. When she first brought Birdie home from CARE, Birdie did her investigation of her new digs and discovered a covered litter box. Well not many dogs can resist snooping and Birdie was no exception. Her new treasure was not without issue as she got her head stuck in it. In an effort to free her trapped head she shook it back and forth banging the box against the lower cabinets. Sheana’s mom was visiting at the time and when the two of them went to investigate the source of such a ruckus they could not help but laugh at the site before them. A litter box as the head of a dog! Oh the humiliation! Needless to say that incident cured Birdie of any further dealings with the litter box and Birdie made her permanent notch in Sheana’s heart.


For more information concerning CARE

For more information concerning Dr. Martin’s research please refer to

For more information about the AKC Canine Good Citizen Certification please refer to

I have decided that I wanted to share some of my other work on my blog. I write a quarterly profile piece for the Springfield (MO) Park Board. What I profile are the canine members and their persons who belong to Cruise Dog Park, Springfield's only off leash park. The park has only been open for the last year and a half. Membership is up with over a 1,000 dogs and the success is largely due to the massive community involvement through generious donations and hard work. There is a $25.00 annual fee to enter the park and current shot records are manditory. If you would like more information about membership please visit the website at www.parkboard.org