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Angela Demerle: Therapy dog brings joy to everyone she meets

My husband, Ed, and I love dogs and have had many in our lives. We currently have three wonderful bichon frises. We never expected to own one that is a busy therapy dog, and certainly never realized what joy and comfort our visits to various places in and about Buffalo with this special little canine would bring to the lives of others, and to ours.

Nine years ago, a little white dog we named Mikita, Miki for short, came into our lives. By breed she is a bichon frise, which means pampered, frizzy dog. By temperament, she is cheerful, loving and a professional lap dog. (This is the breed Marie Antoinette always had on her lap). We brought her home from Canada over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008 to help fill the void when our first beloved bichon, her great-aunt, Molly, then 10, would eventually leave us.

At first we didn’t know what had hit us. You see, Molly was the perfect dog, no troubles – never. Miki, on the other hand, nibbled several antennas off of our 1990s-version cellphones. Oddly, they still worked fine. Were the antennas just there for show?

This little 5-pound bundle of cuteness also chewed the bottom off a hefty library book I was going to return to the library because, after a few tries, I did not care to read it. Of course, the library does not wish to circulate chewed-up volumes, so we paid for it – $64! You bet I read it then. I now know more about the arcane subject of that book than I ever wished to know.

Miki’s nibbling stopped, and then her true, unexpected, unusual personality began to shine through. Molly was a quiet, serene dog, not unfriendly, but not terribly outgoing either. Miki, on the other hand, has a remarkable personality. She loves everyone and everything, and the love just never stops coming. She will greet you, hug you, kiss you and sit with you. She makes you love her whether you want to or not.

One day I read an article about a therapy dog in a hospital setting, and thought Miki might enjoy such an activity. I tried her out at nursing homes and she was a natural. But to get into hospitals, we both had to prove ourselves healthy, and Miki faced a fairly daunting set of tests that would show if she could handle a busy hospital.

I researched the 19 tests she had to pass to become a certified therapy dog. I tried the tests at home and she passed them all, except a few quirky obedience tricks I never taught her, because, well, she is just naturally obedient. Even after training, she was only “sometimes successful” at one of the tests, but we nevertheless signed her up and off we went with Miki and Molly to see what our fate would be.

She passed every test with ease, even the tricky one. After she aced it, she looked up at my beaming face as if to say, “You doubted me?”

Fast forward five years and she is still doing her therapy rounds at hospitals, the library and other interesting places, like the casino. Dog lovers are everywhere! She has her own volunteer ID tag, and at the hospitals she checks in at the volunteer kiosks just like everyone else. I say, “let’s go to work.”

From then on it is Miki’s show. She works diligently, offering to let everyone pet her, hug her, hold her and love her. So many times I hear from someone petting or holding Miki, “You have made me day.” No, I think to myself, you have made mine.

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