Sign In

Golden Age Of Heroes

August 11, 2020

With a three-legged hop and a skip, 6-year-old Ari, aka Hero No. 1651, knows how to work a crowd. Giving his amputated limb the cold-shoulder, the Golden Retriever with the soft, friendly eyes can’t wait to cheer up anyone who needs a dose of happy.

His specialty? Hospice patients, nonverbal people, children using wheelchairs, and those with special needs.

Ari’s owner, Sue Cowan, says he has a knack for knowing who needs him. “Minutes before we drive up to a group home, his tail starts swishing, and I know he’s excited. But two years ago, Ari did something unusual,” she remembers. “I opened the car door to lift him out, and he made a beeline for the facility.”

On that day, what propelled this certified therapy tripod to run like lightning?

A girl having a full-blown meltdown.

“No one could soothe her, but when Ari pressed his head into her chest, she calmed down,” says Cowan, of Carver, Massachusetts. “I never trained him to give a hug with the right amount of comfort, but it worked.”

The child reached to touch Ari’s lustrous coat but lacked coordination.

“When I gently placed her palms on his head, she smiled,” recalls Cowan.

In the past five years, Cowan and Ari, an AKC Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog Excellent, have frequented nursing homes. They recently added elementary schools to open conversations about bullying.

“I’ll say to the kids, ‘Look at Ari. He was born with a badly twisted leg requiring amputation,’ ” Cowan says. “Ari looks different than other dogs with four legs, but he found a way to walk and run that works for him.”

She tells children to not to feel sorry for him. “He’s loving and kind, and that’s what important.”

Cowan says she can’t identify who most needs the Golden’s touch, but this dog with the 14-karat heart does.

“He zeroed in on the kids who were hurting and knew that a goodbye hug for them could mean the world,” Cowan says.

Such is the healing power of a Golden Retriever.

The gold standard of therapy, sporting, and companion dogs, the breed is well-known for its go-all-out-to-please-you personality.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the chief mission officer of Pet Partners, which registers therapy dogs for animal-assisted interventions. She notes that 1,400 Goldens hold the top spot of registered breeds on their list of 12,200 canine teams.

With a double coat ranging from liquid amber to a light red, these butterscotch beauties project an intelligent, understanding, up-for-anything attitude.

They serve as guide dogs, search-and-rescue workers, and four-footed comfort responders for communities in crisis.

They check the box as avid hikers and swimmers and eager dog-sport competitors. In the field, they are standouts among other retrievers for their soft mouths. Their prized trait of picking up and transporting game without tearing it to pieces endears them as hunting companions.

Come nighttime at home, they’ll demand the sofa and hog the bed.

It’s no wonder that of 195 recognized breeds, Goldens rank third in AKC breed popularity and have been in the top-10 rankings since 1976.

Now, they are taking a leading role at the forefront of scientific research.

Such is the healing power of a Golden Retriever.

The gold standard of therapy, sporting, and companion dogs, the breed is well-known for its go-all-out-to-please-you personality.

Mary Margaret Callahan is the chief mission officer of Pet Partners, which registers therapy Dogs for animal-assisted interventions. She notes that 1,400 Goldens hold the top spot of registered breeds on their list of 12,200 canine teams.

With a double coat ranging from liquid amber to a light red, these butterscotch beauties project an intelligent, understanding, up-for-anything attitude.

They serve as guide dogs, search-and-rescue workers, and four-footed comfort responders for communities in crisis.

They check the box as avid hikers and swimmers and eager dog-sport competitors. In the field, they are standouts among other retrievers for their soft mouths. Their prized trait of picking up and transporting game without tearing it to pieces endears them as hunting companions.

Come nighttime at home, they’ll demand the sofa and hog the bed.

It’s no wonder that of 195 recognized breeds, Goldens rank third in AKC breed popularity and have been in the top-10 rankings since 1976.

Now, they are taking a leading role at the forefront of scientific research.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more

    The Right Rescue Dog

    If your New Year’s resolution is to add a canine family member, good for you. Somewhere out there is the perfect puppy or adult dog for your family. You have a lot of things to think about when you begin to look for that new family member, puppy or dog? Large or small? Purebred or […]

    Read more