A team of three dynamic young canines – Dogues de Bordeaux, Li’l Abner and Stella and a Staffordshire Terrier/Boston Terrier mix named Vivian, will step forward this year to carry on the tradition of The National Dog Show Presented by Purina Therapy Dog Ambassador program.
The trio, all from the Philadelphia area, will carry on the work of the show’s previous Therapy Dog Ambassadors, the late Rufus and Eli who both passed away unexpectedly this year. Rufus the Colored Bull Terrier won the 2005 National Dog Show and the 2006 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Eli the Belgian Sheepdog was believed to be the last surviving canine to do therapy work in the aftermath of September 11.
“The Therapy Dog Ambassador program is another example of our work promoting the wonderful things that dogs bring to our quality of life here in Philadelphia,” says Wayne Ferguson president of the Kennel Club of Philadelphia, which has staged Philadelphia’s dog shows since 1879. “It will be a highlight in November when we celebrate these dogs who serve people in need.”
Lil’ Abner and Stella are owned by insurance agent and therapy dog advocate Steven Kramer of Langhorne, PA. Both are purebreds certified by Therapy Dog International to work at schools and healthcare facilities. They do therapy work at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, St. Mary’s Hospital in Bucks County and at Bristol Township Schools. Last year Abner competed in the National Dog Show, winning a Blue Ribbon in the novice Dogue de Bordeaux class.
Vivian comes to the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team from The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine VetPets Therapy Dog Program. She spent three months at the Philadelphia Prison System, as part of the “New Leash on Life” prison-dog program. The program prepares prisoners for transition to the outside world, and Vivian was trained and cared for by a group of soon-to-be-released inmates. Vivian now helps Michele Pich of Glassboro, NJ, a Veterinary Grief Counselor at PennVet, comfort grieving pet lovers in need of canine-assisted therapy and visits the children at the Ronald McDonald House regularly.
“The use of therapy dogs to provide comfort to children, seniors and others in need has grown dramatically over the past decade,” says David Frei, the author of the therapy dog book “Angel on a Leash” and the expert commentator for the National Dog Show TV special on NBC. “This program brings wonderful exposure to the great work that these dogs do.”
In addition to their regular therapy appearances, the trio will handle several publicity assignments, including appearances on Philadelphia TV shows and NBC’s Today show in New York City, working with John O’Hurley and David Frei, the co-hosts of the Thanksgiving Day special, “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina.”