Local Therapy Dog Featured In 2015 Petco Calendar • By Karla Wall
For Jeanie, an adorable pomeranian/papillion/Yorkshire terrier mix, with a couple of other breeds back in the pedigree, life has been a rags-to-riches story. Found on the streets of Bell City in 2008 when only five or six months old, and taken in by a kindly vet tech who worked at Lake Area Animal Hospital in Lake Charles, Jeanie found her way to Lydia Crochet of Lake Charles, and to a life as a cherished family member, therapy dog — and celebrity.
“I found Jeanie on PetFinder.com,” says Crochet. “She’d had a leg that didn’t develop properly, and they had amputated it when they brought her into Lake Area Animal Hospital. She’d been crippled, but once the leg was amputated, she was able to move quite well.”
Crochet says she’d heard about therapy dogs — dogs who visit the sick, disabled, and anyone else who might benefit emotionally and even physically from contact and interaction with a dog — and began to think Jeanie would be a good candidate for a therapy dog program.
“I discovered that she was very ‘in sync’ with us; she knows when you’re sick, she senses your moods,” Crochet says. “She’s very tuned in to people.”
In 2010, Crochet contacted Susan Stanford, head of Dr. Dogs, a local pet therapy group, and Jeanie underwent a few initial tests to determine whether she had a stable enough temperament to be around hospital patients and the disabled (“There can be no tension, and certainly no aggression, in a therapy dog when around people,” says Crochet); whether she could handle being around large, cumbersome and sometimes noisy medical equipment (wheelchairs, for example); and whether she had the basic “manners” required of all good pet dogs — walking easily and comfortably on a leash without pulling, for example. Though she’d never been to an obedience class or had any formal training, Jeanie passed with flying colors, and she was certified as a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs Incorporated, a national organization. Certification, says Crochet, is required of all therapy dogs in the Dr. Dogs group.
Crochet and Jeanie’s first therapy visit was to St. Patrick Hospital — and the first patient they visited was a woman named Jean.
“It was like a sign,” Crochet laughs.
Jeanie’s amputee status makes her a natural at comforting and encouraging the disabled, says Crochet, and one of their favorite places to visit is St. Patrick’s rehabilitation center.
The pair also makes frequent appearances at Family and Youth’s Good Mourning children’s grief group, and Crochet says “it’s all smiles” when they visit. They also take part in Central Library’s Fun with Fideaux reading program, in which kids read to dogs (kids who struggle to read aloud to a teacher or other adult will usually read easily and well to a dog). They visit nursing homes, grief support groups, schools, Vacation Bible Schools, and numerous other venues.
“We visit everyone from babies to the elderly,” Crochet says.
Each visit is different, says Crochet, and each patient is an individual, so there’s not really a “typical” visit. She and Jeanie approach a patient or resident, and ask if he or she wants a visit from a dog. If the answer is yes, they stay as long as the patient wants them to. “You can sense when a patient is getting too tired,” say Crochet. Crochet more often than not holds Jeanie during the visit, but quite a few patients want to hold the dog.
“She thought I was returning her dog to her,” Crochet says. “Of course, the saving grace was that she forgot about us as soon as we left.”
With silky, long-haired, upright ears; longish, flowing buff coat; dark, expressive eyes; and the thin, heavily whiskered muzzle that advertises her Yorkshire terrier ancestry, Jeanie has the looks to match her personality, and, in fact, has become a calendar model, and somewhat of a celebrity. Her photo appears on the April page of the 2015 Petco calendar, sold in Petco stores nationwide as an annual fundraiser for the Petco Foundation.
“I’d submitted a photo for the 2013 calendar,” Crochet says, “but I’d taken the picture with my iPhone, and it wasn’t in the proper format for one of the main calendar pages.” Still, she says, the photo appeared on the back of one of pages, in a montage. She was encouraged to submit a photo for a future calendar, and Jeanie’s photo was accepted for this year’s publication.
The photo, in keeping with the calendar’s theme, “Life Is Better Together,” features Jeanie in a grassy yard, catching some rays with Harlow, the dog of one of Crochet’s friends.
And Jeanie’s been enjoying celebrity status since it was published.
“It’s been so much fun,” Crochet says. “They hung a big print of the photo up in the local Petco; they set up a table for us when the calendar came out in November, and Jeanie ‘pawtographed’ the April page for everyone who wanted to buy a calendar. We’ve been on television, on KPLC and Fox TV segments.”
Jeanie’s become such a local celebrity, in fact, that the Lake Charles Petco store sold more calendars than any other location in Louisiana. The store had record calendar sales this year, with over $7,500 raised.
That means much more than bragging rights and store profits. Money raised from calendar sales goes to help pet rescue organizations, including, this year, Lake Charles Pit Bull Rescue.
Petco’s also used the photo in its sales flyers, and Halo Pet Food Co. has used it in its newsletter publication. She has her own Facebook page, Jeanie The 3-Legged Pooch. And her story will be featured in the second book of the Norbert children’s book series. The book, Norbert: What Can Little You Do?, features stories of people and animals that have overcome obstacles and disabilities, and should be out in February. For more info on the book, visit pollyparkerpress.com/shop/norbert-book-2.
And if Jeanie’s story has inspired you to look into doing pet therapy work with your own dog, visit drdogspetherapy.com.