Puppy follows in paw prints of Pet of the Year

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published March 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Carla Olsen holds Quincy at their home in Hot Springs Village. The 1-year-old Havanese is being trained to be a certified therapy dog for service in hospitals and hospice work. The training could take two or three more years.

At around 15 months old, Quincy is an accomplished puppy, but he still has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor, who was selected as 2012 Pet of the Year.

“We started training him from the day we got in the car and drove him home,” said Carla Olsen, who with her husband, Howard, owns Quincy, an 18-pound Havanese, a breed of Bichon, kin to the poodle and developed in Cuba.

The Olsens, who live in Hot Springs Village, said Quincy has already attended puppy kindergarten and is beginning obedience school. The goal is to train the dog to be a therapy dog for hospital and hospice patients.

“In puppy kindergarten, it is all socialization,” Carla said. “He learns the meaning of ‘come,’ ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ and ‘no.’”

The curly-haired, black-and-white Quincy will go on to advanced obedience training.

“The next step is heeling, coming when called and

leaving people alone after they have paid some attention to the dog,” Carla said. “That’s when we also see how he will interact with other dogs.”

She said a good dog is friendly and not aggressive or meek in front of other dogs — “just ignores them for the most part.”

Training is a part of everyday life for Quincy. The Olsens are always watching the dog’s reactions and behaviors.

“I’ve seen some good signs and some things that we will need to work on with him,” Carla said. “We’ll add some new things, while all the time making sure that what he has already learned remains fresh.”

Still, they believe he has what it takes.

“Quincy is a wonderful, wonderful little dog,” Howard said.

The dog was named for a character from a popular 1970s television show.

“His registered name with the American Kennel Club is Wyhaven Dr. Quincy ME,” Carla said.

Wyhaven is the breeder’s name, and the rest is the title of the first television mystery show to follow the forensic work of a medical examiner, played by the late Jack Klugman. The show ran from 1976 to 1983.

It will take from two to three years for Quincy to become a therapy dog. There are many things to learn, and the little Havanese is following in the very big paw prints of the Olsens’ first therapy dog, Buddy.

“Buddy was 85 pounds of gentleness,” Carla said of the tri-colored, rough Collie. “He was trained, but so much of his gentleness was intuitive. He could walk into a room and know if someone in there needed him. I have seen him go up to a crying person and just gently lay his nose in their lap.”

Carla and Howard volunteered with Buddy as a therapy dog when they lived in Wisconsin, but it was after they retired and moved to Hot Springs Village that Buddy, and the Olsens, got involved in hospice care.

“Someone from Arkansas Hospice spoke to our church women’s group, and she mentioned that the program wanted to start a therapy-dog unit,” Carla said. “We told them about Buddy, but they said the dogs in their program would be certified by Therapy Dog International, and we decided to put Buddy though the process.”

The older dog had impaired vision and might run into something once in a while, but Carla said the

dog passed all the tests and started to work in the Arkansas Hospice program at Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs.

“The patients, especially those who didn’t get a lot of visitors, loved their one-on-one with Buddy,” she said. “He just made himself available. If there were kids at

the hospice who were upset, they could walk with Buddy for a while and feel better, accompanied by that big old dog.”

Buddy died in 2011, and there is a memorial to the dog’s service to patients at the hospice center on the fifth floor of Mercy Hospital. Buddy is identified as the first therapy dog for the Arkansas Hospice in Hot Springs.

Before his death, Buddy was nominated for the 2012 Pet of the Year award from the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Association by his veterinarian, Darrell Riffel of Countryside Animal Hospital in Hot Springs.

He said Buddy was nominated for the award because of the personality he brought to therapy work.

Maggie Milligan, executive director of the veterinary association, said Buddy is the third dog to posthumously win the Pet of

the Year award.

“One year we had a bloodhound that served as a police dog, and the other was one of the dogs in the Paws in Prisons program. All were instrumental in changing the lives of many people,” she said.

The award is given to a dog selected from nominations submitted to the association and voted on by all the members who have been named Veterinarian of the Year over the years.

“The Olsens are lovely people, and you could see how much Buddy meant to them,” Milligan said. “I’m glad they are training another service dog.”

Before Quincy can be a certified therapy dog, he will go through the Canine Good Citizen training established by the American Kennel Association, as well as receive the specialized instruction required by Therapy Dog International.

“For his TDI certification, he has to do a lot of things, and if he misses just one, he fails and has to do it all again at another time,” Carla said. “It has to be just right.”

Once a dog is a TDI-certified therapy dog, the animal is eligible for $1 million of insurance against inadvertently injuring a patient.

But no mater what, Quincy will have a good life as the Olsens’ dog.

“I will not push him. We always want him to be happy,” Carla said. “He is just a puppy, but if he doesn’t settle down over time, he will still be our family dog. Quincy is our pet first and a therapy dog second.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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