Therapy Dogs on Duty at Home


King, Lily, and Annie never fail to rise to the occasion at hand. This month, it was all about lying down quietly keeping me company while I recovered from eye surgery at the beginning of the month. I’ve had to rest and sleep in an upright position to keep bruising and swelling down on my face and help speed recovery. I’m all about following doctor’s orders, and my in-home therapy dogs didn’t let me down. All day long, Lily lay at my feet, King alongside me, and Annie on the floor right up against the sofa so I could pet her head.

There have been other times through the years when the tables have been turned and it’s not me out visiting with one of my therapy dogs to comfort someone in need. Like the time a couple of summers ago when I broke my ankle and could do nothing but sit and elevate all day long. The dogs just know what they need to do. They are always there to comfort and offer companionship…unending, never complaining.


This weekend, I was able to start increasing activity – and first on the docket was brushing and bathing all three of my constant companions, by now in much need of both. Today, Annie got a trim – her fur, as usual, had grown the quickest. They’re happy to be looking and smelling good. Happy, too, to have me on the mend ready to start doing some fun outdoor activities together.


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Reading Buddy Program at Eric Carle Museum


Therapy Dog Rowan and his teammate Diane Houston participated in the Bright Spot Therapy Dog Reading Buddy Program at the Eric Carle Museum in South Amherst, MA. 

Rowan met his buddy Hunter and Hunter’s Mom Khrystal in the museum library. Hunter, who just turned five, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) when he was eight weeks old. Khrystal has posted a number of photos and write-ups about Hunter on the internet to increase awareness of SMA. Rowan gave Hunter a big kiss and Hunter gave Rowan a big smile when they met.

Rowan sat by Hunter’s side as they both listened to Khrystal reading several books written and illustrated by Eric Carle, Hunter’s favorite author.

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Heat and Humidity Tough on the Dogs

SUMMER Annie:slates

Here in western Massachusetts, July finished up strong with blasting heat and humidity – and no rain. The entire month was like that. The poor dogs simply couldn’t get comfortable no matter where they went, inside or out. Our old 1792 farmhouse doesn’t have AC, so it offers little relief. Annie is the smartest of the three. She gravitates to the cool slates on the porch in times of extreme heat.

King takes to the couch, no matter what the weather’s like. It may not be the coolest place, but it’s his favorite place to be!

SUMMER King:couch

And Lily, always determined to be outside on the hunt no matter what, tries to find a cool shady spot to lie in, but within ten minutes, even she’s joining Annie on the slates.


Many plants in the gardens I’ve lovingly tended are dead. Leaves on the trees are starting to turn. And, sadly, the roads are too hot, even in the early morning, for dog walks. When the weather gets this bad, I really wish I lived on a lake. Just looking at water cools me off.


August has brought with it a bit of rain… Perhaps we’re in for a change!


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Annie – HAPPY 9th BIRTHDAY – to You!


Born on July 14th, 2007, Annie is the oldest pup in our pack of three wonderful English Setters. She entered our lives as a ten-week-old rascal of a puppy, and was soon educated in the ways of the household by her great grandma Trudi who was twelve years old at the time. Great grandma Trudi lived to the amazing age of sixteen years, two months, with few health problems throughout her record-long life. Annie seems to have her great grandma Trudi’s genes still maintaining her youthful looks. I swear she beams when she and I are out walking and someone comments on my cute new puppy!

Unlike her younger siblings, seven-year-old littermates King and Lily, Annie isn’t a therapy dog. No, Annie prefers the home life. Happy just to remain back home while King and Lily suit up in their therapy dog vests each week to head out to work in schools helping children learn to read and do better in school. Annie’s working title is Household Manager, and my senior partner, now that great grandma Trudi, and littermates James and Julia – all older than Annie – have passed on. She’s now the one at the top of the ladder, and in her own quiet way, she enjoys having it over King and Lily. She keeps me in line, too, acting as my inner conscience… she seems to be with me wherever I go. I hear her voice in my head keeping me on track.

Like her great grandma Trudi, Annie (knock on wood) has had no major health issues, just a needed teeth cleaning now and then. She gets a clean bill of health from the vet at her annual check-ups. At nine-years-old, she’s well on her way to reaching Trudi’s age… our longest living dog… maybe Annie will break her record! Her birthday treat? Broccoli. This girl loves her vegetables, broccoli being her favorite. After downing a few florets, she and I will go on a long quiet walk together. Something we both enjoy. What better way to celebrate her 9th birthday!

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Bright Spot Launches Summer Reading Buddy Program at Eric Carle Museum


For the third summer in a row, Bright Spot Therapy Dogs launched the start of our Summer Reading Buddy Program at the Eric Carle Museum in South Amherst, Massachusetts.


King was very excited to put on his therapy dog vest and head out the door to go to work. Since the school year ended in mid-June, King hasn’t been working with any young children – something he loves doing.


Every Monday afternoon throughout July and August, young children have the fun of reading aloud to one of our specially trained Bright Spot Reading Buddy Dogs. Whether the youngster simply talks about the pictures in the book or reads every word on the page, sitting next to the dog and petting him provides a sense of calm. The non-threatening, non-judgmental Reading Buddy sits or lies down and seemingly listens to every word spoken by the reader – and enjoys looking at the pictures,too.


Readers must be signed-up ahead to reserve a coveted slot with the Reading Buddy. Four time slots are available every Monday afternoon. To reserve a time for your young reader, call the Eric Carle Museum and ask to sign-up for time with the Reading Buddy . One of the readers King had today has come to the Summer Reading Buddy Program every summer since it started at the Carle. Both the children and their adults love it!

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Summertime: Poison Ivy and Dogs

photo: from internet images

photo: from internet images

I wrote this post in July 2013 and decided to repost it today when I realized what I was scratching on my ankle was not a mosquito bite, but the beginning of an outbreak of Poison Ivy. Oh, yes. The dogs have been up on their hunting hill! My post received a great deal of attention from my readers back in 2013. Here it is again, for new readers to the blog, and as a reminder to all poison ivy sufferers…

Poison Ivy: Can dogs get it and break out in an angry, itchy red rash that can turn blistery with an acute case? No, thankfully, dogs don’t get this dreaded summertime curse. Yes, I call it a curse because I have been plagued by Poison Ivy since childhood. I am always on the lookout for those pointy, shiny green leaves. There are many look-alikes, but someone like me knows only too well what vine-like plants are and are not Poison Ivy. Here, on the Farm, Poison Ivy is everywhere. I’ve learned to avoid it as I did as a child when playing in the field behind our house.

So, dogs don’t get Poison Ivy, but people can get Poison Ivy from dogs. The dog can carry the oil of the Poison Ivy leaf on his fur. When a person pets the dog’s fur, she can get the rash from the oil she has touched on the dog’s fur. I learned this several years ago when I broke out in an acute case of blistery poison ivy on my legs. I hadn’t been anywhere near any Poison Ivy, but the dogs’ favorite hunting hill grows a healthy crop of the stuff. It flourishes on that wooded hill. You would think I was fertilizing it. Covered in Poison Ivy over my entire legs, I observed one of my dogs actually lying down in the shiny leaves on the hillside. Evidently, a very cool, shady spot!

This was a dilemma. What to do? I couldn’t prevent the dogs from hanging out on their hunting hill. Seeking a solution, I spoke with the man who cuts our lawn. No, he said,  you can’t cut it down. The person doing the cutting would surely come down with a severe case of poison ivy. No, he said, you can’t burn it. You can get Poison Ivy from the fumes. What then? I asked. His solution was to use a highly diluted Poison Ivy killer. I resisted this solution. I couldn’t, just couldn’t, use any type of poison where my dogs tread. He assured me that it is used all the time and is perfectly safe around children and dogs. Still I resisted.

The following summer, I changed my tune. I spend a lot of time training, bathing, and grooming my dogs. Thus, I’m handling their fur a lot. Once again, I broke out in an acute case of unsightly, blistering Poison Ivy on the back of my legs. This occurred just a few weeks before my daughter’s wedding! Mind you, when the blisters heal, I’m left with scars that eventually fade over time. This was enough! I gave the lawn man the okay to go ahead with the Poison Ivy killer. It killed off the plants over a period of several weeks. But, what I wasn’t expecting was the plants growing back the following summer. The crop seemed even more vigorous! Not a permanent solution.

A forester friend gave me my solution! This woman spends all day in the woods, and she, too, is plagued by acute cases of Poison Ivy that have hospitalized her. She told me about a product called Tecnu. It’s actually a wash. After being exposed, you’re supposed to wash the exposed areas of skin with the Tecnu wash. Her tip, however, was to apply the oily substance as a preventative. She buys it in gallons and applies a thin coating before going to work each day. I have followed suit. I cover my arms and legs with Tecnu as a preventative. If I feel a spot of the rash ready to erupt on my neck, or face, or other area I didn’t cover, I quickly apply it there and keep doing so each day.

Since following this regime, I have avoided acute cases of blistery Poison Ivy. The dogs continue to lounge wherever they like on their hunting hill, and for me – so far so good. Now, I’m not endorsing the use of this product for others in any way but as directed. I’m sure using it as a wash immediately after exposure, as directed, would be highly effective for most people. I’m an acute Poison Ivy sufferer, I’ll do the extreme!

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Happy 4th of July! Happy Summer!


For me, The 4th of July has always been the official launch to the summer season. But, this year, I feel like I’ve been living in continuous summertime since the beginning of June. It’s been hot, and I love the heat. Around here in western Massachusetts, typically heat also means humidity. Even for someone like me who worships the sun, the humidity, at times, gets me down. And, of course, the humidity brings the bugs. Ugh!


Not this summer! It’s been hot and dry, breezy, cool at night, and no bugs. Absolutely glorious – and along with me, the dogs are embracing it. Annie and Lily stay out back from 9:00 in the morning ’til dinnertime at 5:00. It’s lucky for me their internal body clocks cue them in to eat or I’d be hard-pressed to get them inside. The back field and surrounding woods are a nature’s paradise for this pair. They sit motionless for hours, silently listening and smelling all sorts of woodland creatures. Most of the time, they leave the open field area and head way back to the farthest corner of the fence up into the woods and settle into a bed of leaves as they take great pleasure in their hunt. So happy and content.


What about King? Well if I’m outside, so is he… but, when I’m at my desk working, my faithful boy is right at my feet. He’ll go outside initially with Annie and Lily to scope things out, but unless I’m out in the garden or yard, he’s at the door within 20 minutes signaling me to let him in. Can’t say I mind his company… If I have to be at my desk working, I love being able to feel his presence leaning against my chair, his head ready for me to pet. My little muse.



In weather like this, King and I move our office to the porch where we, too, can enjoy summer’s delightful sights and sounds. Once my work is done, my co-worker and I head out together for a walk. Got to enjoy every minute of every day… less work and more play… hiking, biking, and kayaking as much as possible. Summer passes so quickly.

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King: On Guard Duty


King sat or lay down on guard duty for two weeks. He wouldn’t budge for anything except his meals and going outside for a few minutes to do his business – then he’d be right back on guard duty. The poor boy knew something was going on under our dishwasher. He knew something we did not know. A mouse (or mice) was busy underneath and along the sides of our dishwasher pulling insulation down to build a NEST!!!!


To add insult to injury, said mouse (mice) was chewing on the drain hose. Unbeknownst to us our dishwasher was silently leaking through the floorboards underneath and down to the basement below. Fortunately, my husband went down in the basement to check on something (not done, too often by either of us), and saw the drip, drip, drip coming down from the floor above as I was running a full load of dishes.

KING-way down

Urrgg! Out came the dishpan to hand wash the load already in progress and continue hand washing throughout the weekend with company on board. (Things like this never happen during the week when a service call can be made!)

We have a terrific appliance man. For those living in the Northampton, MA, area, it’s Besko Appliances in Easthampton, owned by Chris. I have bought every single appliance from Besko’s for the past 34 years, simply because when there’s trouble with an appliance, Chris comes out right away, and if it’s at all possible to save an appliance, he’ll do it. For years, he resurrected my dryer – even, after a while, I secretly hoped for a new one! He’s old time service…. so hard to find today! So, Chris came right away on Monday morning, and with King sitting over his shoulder, he exposed the damage that had been done. King observed as I used the Shop Vac to quickly vacuum up the nest and mouse droppings, leaving the area under the dishwasher empty and clean.


King is now relieved that his family is rid of the invasion only he knew was happening. I’m relieved for him because his 24/7 vigil has come to an end and he’s back relaxing in his favorite spot on the couch. The new dishwasher will be delivered next week. No hope for the old one…. Mice are so destructive!


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Become a Certified Therapy Dog Team


Becoming a certified therapy dog team requires a great deal of teamwork. Both ends of the lead must work in sync to make successful visits in healthcare facilities or educational environments.


Becoming a certified therapy dog team requires more than a sweet, friendly dog that loves people and a handler who drives his/her dog to a visiting site. The dog must be at ease greeting strangers and entering new places. And, the handler, in turn, must serve as a skilled guide, providing signals to the dog who relies on his teammate to lead the way.


Before beginning therapy dog work, the owner must access his/her dog’s temperament. All dogs are wonderful, but not all dogs make good therapy dogs. You know your dog better than anyone. A shy dog that withdraws when a stranger approaches, won’t be interested in interacting with people in a healthcare or educational setting. An overly exuberant dog may have too much energy to work in a controlled setting. There are many things we can enjoying doing with our dogs as a team. It’s important to select an activity that fits both members of the team.


If therapy dog work is a good fit for you and your dog, sign up for one of our therapy dog training classes where the two of you will learn the necessary skills and techniques to work in sync and become a certified therapy dog team. Our Bright Spot Therapy Dog training classes are kept small to give plenty of time and attention to each team as skills and techniques are demonstrated and practiced in a relaxed, supportive, interactive environment. The class pictured above just completed our June two-session training course. They are well-prepared to have their on-site evaluation at a nursing home that tests a dog’s obedience skills and the team’s ability to interact in sync with the residents. Our next class will begin in September. Check out details on our website and sign up asap to reserve your spot. If it’s the right fit for you, becoming a certified therapy dog team is a very special activity. One that will bring you and your dog a feeling of great joy as you witness the power of the human-canine bond helping people in need.




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Memorial Day Surprise: The Praying Mantises Hatched!


Much to my surprise-and delight-my Praying Mantis case that I’ve been hovering over the past six weeks, finally hatched! I had just about given up. May 29th marked the final day of the 4-6 week period. My friend Patti, who had taken up the experiment with me, had bought two mantis cases, to be on the safe side. Surely, if one failed (as the directions warn), the other would hatch. Well, both of Patti’s praying mantis cases hatched, two days apart. This happening for her 5 weeks post refrigerator removal.

As of May 29th, my praying mantis case looked just as it had the day I purchased it. I was a bit discouraged. I’d followed the directions to the letter. I was sorry that I hadn’t bought a second case, as I had originally intended. When making the purchase back in March, I was thinking optimistically… if one case can yield 100-400 praying mantises, that would be more than enough to handle our yard. With two cases hatching, I had visions of an infestation of mantises, crawling everywhere and coming inside our old farmhouse. They’re kind of big (growing as much as 4-5 inches) to have that happening!

Anyway, on May 29th, I began to think I’d just have to try again next year. Or, maybe if Patti gets inundated by 600-800 of these creatures, she’ll let me have a few. I figured I’d wait one more week before releasing the case into to nature and recycling the two plastic cups it had been housed in all these months. On Memorial Day morning, I gave the case it’s usual examination. Nothing. Then, about 11:00 am, I was running water in the kitchen sink to fill the coffee pot and my eye happened to glance in the direction of the experiment kept on the counter close by. I stopped the water, put down the coffee pot….. something was different about those cups… at the bottom, it looked like a pile of sawdust. On closer examination, I saw that the pile was moving, and bits of things started moving along the sides of the cup and covering the case. It was happening before my very eyes! Hundreds of baby praying mantises were hatching and covering the interior of the plastic cup! I was wildly excited!

Remembering the directions stated that the newly hatched babies must be released outside asap because they are hungry when born and would start to eat each other, I ran outside, King, Lily, and Annie trailing behind me. As they watched from the screened porch, I carefully sprinkled the baby mantises on bushes, and high-growing plants, taking care to separate them, and not let any slip to the ground. Ants love to eat them, I’ve read.

So – they’re out. My experiment continues! According to my directions, young mantises will grow full size in about 3 months. I have lots of ticks for them to feast on! Progress reports will be forthcoming.



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