PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 2012) – A team of three dynamic young canines – Dogues de Bordeaux named 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. Rufus is the Colored Bull Terrier who won both the National Dog Show (2005) and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (2006). Eli is the Belgian Sheepdog who is believed to be the last surviving canine to do therapy work in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Beloved working therapy dogs and media favorites, Rufus and Eli both passed away unexpectedly this year.
Owned by insurance agent and therapy dog advocate Steven Kramer of Langhorne, PA, Lil’ Abner is a 135-pound behemoth and Stella weighs in at a more feminine 120. Both are purebreds certified by Therapy Dog International to work at schools and healthcare facilities.
Vivian, who weighs 40 pounds, comes to the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team from The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (PennVet) 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.
At the end of that period, Vivian was adopted by Michele Pich of Glassboro, NJ, a Veterinary Grief Counselor at PennVet. Vivian now helps Michele comfort grieving pet lovers in need of canine-assisted therapy and visits the children at the Ronald McDonald House regularly.
ddition 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.” L’il Abner, Stella and Vivian will meet and greet thousands at the Ronald McDonald House exposition booth during The National Dog Shows at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18 (www.nationaldogshow.com).
“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,” said 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.”
“The use of therapy dogs to provide comfort to children, seniors and others in need has grown dramatically over the past decade,” added 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.”
Li’l Abner, now two years old, has been doing therapy work at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, St. Mary’s Hospital inBucksCountyand at Bristol Township Schools since he was one. Last year, he competed in the National Dog Show, winning a Blue Ribbon in the novice Dogue de Bordeaux class. Four year old Stella and Abner almost always do their therapy work together, creating a memorable 255-pound experience whenever they walk into a room.
Vivian, now 22 months, is also certified by VetPets and participates in all of the PennVet Therapy Dog Programs. Vivian has her American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Certification. All three members of the National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team make regular visits to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.
The National Dog Show Therapy Dog Ambassador Team will be in the spotlight Thursday, Nov. 8, when the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House hosts the annual pre-event press conference at the facility on Chestnut Street in Center City. The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House Therapy Dog Program was started nearly 20 years ago and now encompasses close to 15 regularly scheduled volunteers between both House locations inPhiladelphia. The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House is the world’s first, founded in 1974 by the work of Dr. Audrey Evans, former pediatric oncologist from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and former Eagles General Manager, Jimmy Murray. There are now 317 Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide.
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