Retired Guide Dog Otto has found his calling as a volunteer Therapy Dog with his puppy raiser, Kathie.
In this 31st episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I sat down with Kathie who volunteers through Alliance of Therapy Dogs with her Golden Retriever, and retired Guide Dog, Otto. In hearing their story, it is no surprise that his Instagram is @ottosgoldenheart and it may even be safe to say that learned it from Kathie.
Kathie and her husband are puppy raisers for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in New York. When their first program puppy permanently joined their family due to health conditions, they decided they wanted to thank the organization for bringing her into their lives by raising another for the foundation: Otto.
Otto entered the working world right as New York was shut down due to the pandemic in 2020. In the rush to protect everyone’s safety during uncertain times, he was sent home with his new handler in Arizona without a chance to say goodbye to Kathie and her husband. However, just four to five months later he found himself back in Georgia as it turned out he was not enjoying life as a Guide Dog.
For Kathie and her husband, it was a “no-brainer” to welcome him back into their family and they were certain, based on his early experience with them, that he would make a great Therapy Dog. Kathie was already in touch with Hallie and knew that her career changed Guide Dog Buddy was working alongside her in Animal Assisted Therapy so she reached out for Hallie’s advice on how to get started. Kathie and Otto passed their test and have been volunteering for one year.
If you’re ready for a heart-warming episode full of Kathie’s stories about the impact that Otto makes with the people who they meet while volunteering, let’s dive in:
In this episode, we discuss …
- Why Kathie knew that Otto would enjoy volunteering as a Therapy Dog.
- What it was like to welcome Otto home after his short tenure as a working Guide Dog.
- What the future looks like for Kathie and Otto and their plans for her husband and youngest dog to join them.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [01:35] Kathie shares that she and her husband are puppy raisers for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in New York. Otto was their second puppy to raise for them and they always thought that if he didn’t make it as a Guide Dog that he would make a perfect Therapy Dog.
- [01:53] Kathie shares about Otto’s brief tenure working as a Guide Dog.
- [02:30] Kathie shares how she got connected with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) through Hallie and Buddy, a fellow puppy raiser and Otto’s half brother. They then applied, tested and have now been an ATD team since 2021.
- [02:52] Kathie goes more in-depth on Otto’s tenure as a Guide Dog and the impact of the pandemic at that time.
- [03:40] Why Kathie and her husband ended up with three Golden Retrievers of their own.
- [04:30] How Kathie knew that Otto, and the newest addition, would enjoy being volunteer Therapy Dogs.
- [05:13] Although Kathie knew that Otto would enjoy being a Therapy Dog she was suprised to find just how in tune he is with the emotions of those he meets and how great he is at it.
- [06:52] Kathie shares how she found organizations to volunteer through with Otto.
- [07:58] What it takes for a Therapy Dog team to become reading specialists through CAREing Paws and R.E.A.D.
- [08:29] I try to recap the many places Kathie and Otto volunteer (Tillman House after school program, Atlanta Speech School, Georgia Tech, Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe, and local elementary and high schools) and she fills in the gaps.
- [09:13] Kathie expresses how volunteering with Otto through pet therapy has warmed her heart.
- [10:26] Otto’s excitement when he hears “we’re going to go to work” and sees Kathie grab his vest.
- [11:13] If you know your dog likes people, and you have an interest in dog therapy, Kathie’s advice is to “just go for it”.
- [11:55] Kathie’s plan for her husband to get certified with their youngest dog so that they can all volunteer together.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a listen and let me know which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- Alliance of Therapy Dogs
- Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe
- Atlanta Speach School
- CAREing Paws
- Georgia Tech
- Guide Dog Foundation
- Reading Education Assistance Dogs® (R.E.A.D.)®
- Tillman House
Rate, Review, and Follow the Podcast
Therapy Dog Talk is a podcast where I interview a different team each week via Instagram Live. If you enjoyed this episode please find us over at Apple, Google, or Spotify and give us a follow after you leave a review.
Do you know someone who would make a great guest? Be sure to reach out and let me know.