Borzoi for Therapy

Many breeds of dogs have been used in the past as a means of therapy. Dogs as many know, can relax individuals, work to improve their lives, or simply add a spark to the lives of individuals with medical needs. People generally know about golden retrievers, labs, newfoundlands, and german shepherds being used as working/therapy dogs; unfortunately, many do not yet know the value Borzoi have in this area.

Borzoi are extremely calm and happy dogs. As such, I have always done my best to breed not just for conformation, but personality and character. Below I would like to share a story of some of my Borzoi which have gone on to improve the lives of others.

This letter was written in response to a notice sent to the Borzoi Club of America members in an effort to identify individuals using Borzoi as Therapy dogs in order to develop a Therapy Dog honor roll.

Letter written to the President of the BCOA of Ms. Rebecca Peters-Campbell
Dear Ms. Peters-Campbell,
My breeder, Liz Green of C’Lestial Borzoi, forwarded your email to me with the request for information about the use of Borzoi as therapy dogs.  I would like to tell you a little about the three Borzoi I use in my program.
I have been involved in therapy dogs for over 11 years.  I have been a tester/observer for Therapy Dogs, Inc for over ten years. For ten years, I used two Standard Poodles as my therapy dogs.  I liked the fact that they were not the usual dogs that you see in therapy dogs, as people rarely see Standard Poodles while Toy Poodles are very common.  As my poodles aged, I grew very tired of the grooming and began researching breeds that I was attracted to for my next therapy dogs.   I like to use unusual breeds because they are great conversation starters whether I am visiting children or older people.  The Borzoi are very elegant, very quiet, almost wash and wear, and they are "bed high" - no picking up dogs to show them to bed ridden people.  One of my friends in the kennel club showed Borzoi years back and gave me Liz Green’s information.  While it is always a gamble as to whether or not a puppy will grow to be a therapy dog, I hoped that with my knowledge of the necessary traits I would be able to "train" a Borzoi for therapy dog work.  I contacted Liz and found her to be very patient and honest with all of my questions.  Best of all, she had a litter of two week old puppies. I told Liz that I was looking for a puppy that would seek human interaction, one that was not shy but not alpha either and I preferred a male.   A week or so later I decided that I would like two puppies in order to provide proper exercise through play, and to give comfort and companionship to each other but still left the selection to Liz.  Liz was gracious enough to send pictures of the entire litter from birth to the day I picked up the puppies she had chosen for me. I truly loved my boys before I ever touched them. 
I began working with the puppies the day they moved to Dublin, GA.  I took them out as often as possible. They were easily trained in Obedience.  I had a fellow tester/observer come to my house to see them when they were a year old.  She had shown dogs in Conformation for many years(although not Borzoi) but had warned me that she felt Borzoi would not make good therapy dogs.  She could not believe how easy they were on the leash or how quiet, calm,and well mannered.  Therapy Dogs, Inc requires an initial testing of the handler and dog, then three observed visits.  Twist and Thor passed with flying colors.  I began immediately working on obtaining the Therapy Dog Titles awarded by AKC.  Each dog has to log 50 visits and submit with an application to AKC for the title.  C'Lestial Blackthorn (Thor) quickly logged 50 visits and was the 5th Borzoi to receive the AKC Therapy Dog Title. His brother, C'Lestial Bamboo Twist, received his therapy dog title in August, 2013.  My third Borzoi, C'Lestial The Talisman (Mojo), was awarded his therapy dog status in Dec, 2013.  We will begin working on his 50 visits in Jan.  Contrary to what most people believe, I do not find Borzoi to be aloof at all.  Mine have been ideal therapy dogs, mannerly although very sensitive to human moods.
I have a group of 14 members in Dublin, GA.  Because Therapy Dogs, Inc does not allow use of its logo, we call ourselves, TheraPups.  We visit 6 nursing homes, a women's shelter, an Adult Day Care, and a mental health facility for children each month.  We go to colleges to "de-stress" the students during finals. I work closely with the Dublin Civitan Club.  Twice a year the Civitan Club hosts a field day for the Special Needs students of Laurens County.  The therapy dogs are an exciting part of these field day activities.  We offer a Paws For Reading program to the local library and schools where the children who need help reading can leave their classrooms to read to a therapy dog.  Practice makes perfect; thereby, improving their reading skills.
Because all three of my Borzoi are registered therapy dogs, I take a different dog on each visit.  I have several children's books about Borzoi that I take to read to the children we visit.  I often use AKC’s teaching aids to help children learn about safety around dogs.  The Borzoi are large enough to withstand hands made rough by minds lost to dementia.  They are gentle enough to allow a disturbed child to hug them and whisper words that no human will hear. Their silky coats, large bodies, and long muzzles are able to help open the eyes of the blind.  Even the most hard core dog hater will come near enough to ask what breed he is.  Never do I enter a facility that I do not hear gasps at the presence of one of my beautiful dogs.  Phones are brought out and pictures taken.
My dogs may never enter the show ring.  They may never be awarded ribbons, trophies, or championships.  But, oh, the stars in my heavenly crown they have helped me to earn!  I know that each visit my dogs participate in will brighten someone’s day.  I am grateful for the joy they bring not only to me but to everyone who sees them.
Cheryl Brooks
Dublin, GA