Archive for the ‘Kanzu Therapy Dog’ Category

nathanNathan is a 4 year old boy with a severe speech impairment related to an anatomical abnormality of his palate. He has been in speech therapy for most of his short life. His parents were very concerned with the discrepant diagnoses that Nathan had received and the lack of progress in speech therapy. They sought out further information and found their way to Dr. D’Antonio. Nathan and his family live a great distance from Southern California and in order to have evaluations and therapy with Dr. D. they would travel and schedule intensive therapy on a daily basis for a week at a time. Such aggressive therapy is a challenge and tiring for such a young child. Enter Kanzu the therapy dog. It was always a thrill for Nathan to come to visit Kanzu and to be able to see him after his therapy sessions. Nathan’s parents also rewarded Nathan with a special prize after each week of therapy.


After his most recent week of therapy, Nathan earned a trip to the nearby toy store where as his parents had promised, a ‘Jeff Gorvette’ car was waiting for Nathan. Nathan’s mother related the following wonderful story about Nathan’s trip to the toy store:


“Yesterday after our session, we took Nathan to the toy store as promised. As we walked in, we reminded him that he could get one car for working so hard. He agreed and all was well. He went in and picked up one Jeff Gorvette car and was very excited and started to walk away. He then stoped dead in his tracks and said “wait wait wait!” He ran back and grabbed a second Jeff Gorvette. I looked at him quizzically and reminded him that he only earned 1 car. He then explained that Dr D needed a car for working so hard too. Then he picked up a third car and said “Kanzu was a good listener. He needs a car too.” It was very sweet — we ultimately explained that Dr D would get her own reward and one for Kanzu so he finally put it down and seemed relieved.”


It sounds like Kanzu made quite the impression and Linda had to agree…..Kanzu was a very good listener.  And yes, he got lots of nice rewards for being a great speech therapy assistant.

20140808_120933-MOTIONFor more than 2 years Kanzu has been an active therapy dog providing pet therapy visits through the Enlighten Dog Chapter of Love on a Leash. As a certified therapy dog team Kanzu and Linda visit a variety of different types of facilities including retirement communities, library reading programs and schools.
In an effort to recognize dogs who do this kind of work, the American Kennel Club (AKC) developed the AKC Therapy Dog™ program and now awards official AKC titles to dogs who have worked to improve the lives of the people they have visited. AKC Therapy Dog titles can be earned only by dogs who have been certified by AKC recognized therapy dog organizations and have performed the required number of visits.
In August 2014 Kanzu completed the 50 visits needed for the AKC Therapy Dog (THD) title. Kanzu’s 50th visit was completed at Lynwood Learning Center where Kanzu is a regular visitor. He and the students celebrated with lots of tricks and treats for Kanzu and pizza and red velvet cake for the students and staff. It was thumbs up for everyone; human and K-9.


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 hand in handOne of Kanzu’s jobs is working as a therapy dog.  He visits many different types of facilities including retirement communities, libraries and schools.  But his favorite venue is a local alternative school.  One of the special things about this location is the small contained yard where he can walk and run and play with the kids.  One young boy has become Kanzu’s very special friend.  Dayvion was drawn to Kanzu immediately at their very first meeting.  Kanzu has many tricks and behaviors that he will do on command for Linda.  But he has never volunteered nor routinely performed these tricks for others.  Dayvion wanted Kanzu to do his tricks for him when asked.  So, he worked very hard with Linda to learn Kanzu’s special commands and hand signals.  He also had to learn how to keep commands consistent and understandable and how to reward the behaviors Kanzu performed on command while not rewarding when Kanzu did not comply.  There are so many lessons for everyone in this set of learnings. To Dayvion’s amazement and delight, after only a few short lessons Kanzu began to respond to Dayvion’s commands.  Kanzu seemed very generous with his responses often responding to Dayvion’s requests even when his body language or commands were a little confusing.  The end result  has been a special bond that has provided many opportunities for learning and discussion.  And Kanzu is a happy dog who got lots of love and treats while working.


For video of Kanzu and Davion Click Here


The kiss 20140725_110704 Love20140725_110718 Resting


easterdogKanzu continues to enjoy therapy dog visits to several locations. One of his favorites though is an Alternative School in San Bernardino.  For Easter, Kanzu arrived at the school as the “Easter Dog”.  He delivered candy filled Easter Eggs that were hidden for a hunt.  One egg held a photo of Kanzu and the boy who found that won the golden egg with a crisp Two dollar bill inside.  Kanzu on the other hand enjoyed lots of treats. A great time was had by all!


juskanKanzu is a registered therapy dog and does lots of therapy visits with our local Love On A Leash Chapter. However, long before he became a registered therapy dog he would visit with Linda’s speech therapy clients. Recently, Kanzu has been busy doing lots of speech therapy. He has become an active part of Linda’s therapy practice.

Justin is a 7 year old boy who was born with a syndrome that has a very large tongue and a cleft palate called Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Justin’s tongue was so large that it impacted his ability to breath, swallow and eat and speak. It was surgically ‘reduced’ by a long-time friend of Linda’s, Dr. Jeff Marsh in St Louis who has extensive experience with this procedure.

Even after surgery, Justin continued to have a severe speech impairment. The next clinical question for Justin was whether a surgery for his cleft palate would make it easier for him to speak. Dr. Marsh arranged for Linda to evaluate Justin and work with him to determine if more surgery was indicated and to assist Justin in improving his speech.

When Linda and Justin met, he did not move his mouth or tongue for any sounds. It was a big job to get Justin motivated to move his tongue and lips to make speech sounds. Enter Kanzu the speech therapy assistant. Justin met Kanzu and soon repeat visits became the motivator and reinforcer for speech therapy drills. When Justin met Kanzu, like so many of the children we visit, his first impulse was to climb right on him and try to ride him. Kanzu was a very patient assistant and allowed lots of hugging and snuggling and even a quick mount. When we shared the photo of Justin and Kanzu, Dr. Marsh commented; “I love Justin’s enthusiasm and Kanzu’s tolerance”. Kanzu is a fantastic speech therapy assistant and seems to love the attention. And best yet, Justin is improving rapidly and speaking more. He especially loves to watch videos of Kanzu doing agility and calls out commands to Kanzu as he watches along with the run…..he gets great speech practice as Justin tells Kanzu: over, table, jump, climb it, tire, tunnel!

Kanzu joined several of his K-9 and human friends for a ‘Pet Therapy’ visit to Valley Preparatory School in Redlands. Imagine our surprise and how welcome Kanzu felt when we arrived to see many of the students in their gym t-shirts complete with a large pictures of the school mascot: a beautiful lion. Kanzu was one of 5 dogs to visit the school through our Pet Therapy program headed by Enlighten Dogs. The students enjoyed a presentation that explained the origin of the modern K-9 descended from wolves; how dogs have evolved to have different traits and jobs; how to meet, great and interact with an unfamiliar dog; and tips on training the students’ own dogs. Kanzu’s K-9 friends included; aGerman Shepherd, English Springer Spaniel, Pit Bull and Siberian Husky. The group showed off and entertained the students with a variety of tricks and work including cart pulling, agility, speaking and shaking to name just a few of their ‘tricks’. Finally, the highlight of the day was when some of the students ran with the dogs and most especially ran Kanzu through some of the agility obstacles. All of the dogs were fantastic ambassadors and we think Kanzu may have created some new dog agility enthusiasts.



















For several months Kanzu has been in training to become a Therapy Dog. Therapy dogs volunteer with their owners to visit settings such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. They are different from Service Dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person with a disability. Kanzu had participated unofficially in some of Linda’s speech therapy sessions with her speech clients. The children especially love that Linda has used her speech therapy skills to teach Kanzu to ‘speak’. It was a natural transition then to make his therapy visits official.

Many organizations provide testing and accreditation for therapy dogs. We chose to affiliate with Love on a Leash because there is an active local chapter headed by Elicia Casey and Chris Ashton of Enlighten Dogs who we know well through their work with Ema.

In the fall of last year Kanzu took a training class with Elicia and Chris. In December he passed a repeat Canine Good Citizen Test and additional observation and testing by a Therapy Dog Evaluator to make sure that Kanzu could handle situations he might encounter in therapy settings such as; sudden loud or strange noises, people with canes, walkers or wheelchairs, or unusual styles of walking or moving, etc.

We then embarked on our 10 supervised therapy visits. Kanzu has had a good time visiting schools and classrooms for emotionally, physically and developmentally disabled children. He has been a great sport and very patient with the children who we have to watch carefully at times. We still laugh at the one rather large girl had to be redirected when she started to climb onto Kanzu’s back and asked, “Can I ride him”. (At least she asked!) Kanzu enjoys doing his tricks for the kids, including talking, bowing, shaking and giving high fives. But we think he likes his visits to the local retirement home the best. There he has some special friends who really enjoy him and he gets to just lie down and get petted.

Kanzu’s supervised visits are now completed and he is a Certified Pet Therapy Dog with Love on a Leash. Kanzu and Linda will be able to do visits to any facility that requests Kanzu’s services. After 50 visits Kanzu will be eligible for the new AKC therapy Dog title (THD) that was established recently to acknowledge the contributions of therapy dogs who have worked to improve the lives of the people they have visited.

For more information about Therapy Dogs Click here/p>

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