Therapists in Brown Fur Coats

AKC Gazette breed column, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

Known as multi-talented hunting dogs, Chessies can also excel in a very different kind of role — helping people as therapy dogs.

When we think of Chesapeakes, we think of tough, hard-driving “huntin’ dogs.” When our Chessies come in from the field, however, they are ready take on other jobs.

They intuitively know how to empathize with a person in need and can make us feel better, no matter the situation. This month we are featuring Chesapeake Bay Retrievers who serve as therapy dogs.

There are many ways that therapy dogs make a difference. Some go to hospitals and nursing homes to comfort the sick and dying. Pet-assisted therapy programs use dogs to encourage patients to relearn skills lost through accident or disease. Some dogs go to schools and libraries to listen to young readers hone their reading skills. Some relieve the stress for college students during exam time.

American Chesapeake Club president Joanne Silver and Am./Can./PR/World Ch. Silvercreek’s I Love Lucy, JH, WC (B&B, TDI, and Delta certified), made a difference by comforting families and workers from all across the United States affected by 9/11. At the memorial service at Ground Zero, Joanne and Lucy comforted families waiting to receive ashes from the towers. Lucy found a family with two little boys to entertain with tricks and hugs as their family waited. The boys returned from the children’s care center with stuffed dogs as their gifts. One boy named his toy Lucy so he could remember his new friend when he returned home. By volunteering where they could, Joanne and Lucy did something to fight back.

Larry Lentz, a Naval Reservist from Mundelein, Illinois, takes his 7-year-old male, Moose (BIS GCh. Mud Creek Moose, RN, CGC, THD), to the Lake Forest Hospital. Moose entertains patients and brings them joy. For their exceptional volunteer efforts in 2012, Larry and Moose received the first-ever Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Moose was the breed’s second AKC THD. At the exam, Moose so impressed the tester that she changed her opinion of the breed forever.

Linda Sparrow takes Currituck, CGC, to schools and libraries in Raleigh, North Carolina, where children read to him. At the school, they began working with children with behavioral problems and developmental delays. Currituck and all types of children have a special connection. He knows what each child needs and is there to provide it. One mute child spoke for the first time to Currituck.

Therapy dogs can make miracles happen.


Amy Wernecke and Ches-shores on the Severn, CGC, THD, participate in the animal-assisted therapy program at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Lewis plays games to help with the children’s therapy to overcome their handicaps. They learn to grasp and throw a ball, take him for walks, groom him, and hide his toys and balls for him to find. These skills help them achieve their therapy goals. He brings a sense of home to the hospital and for the children missing their own pets.

Amy gives each child a “baseball card” featuring Lewis as a special gift for their efforts. They live in Severna Park, Maryland, and do most of their volunteering in Baltimore.

My own dear Northcreek’s Razzle Dazzler, VCD1, TDX, JH, RA, AX, OAJ, CGC, WC, THD, has visited the local school in San Diego every week to listen as children read to her. We’ve watched the remarkable progress the children make in their reading skills as the year progresses. She listened intently for the past six years and kept going every week until she passed away recently, at age 14.

Charmaine Hammond, a renowned international transformational speaker, has written several books about her Chesapeake therapy dog, Toby. Toby the Pet Therapy Dog and His Hospital Friends and several more Toby books tell his story. I can say that volunteering with my dogs at the school and hospital has given me more pleasure and satisfaction than anything else I do. I say thank you for allowing me to come into your lives. Try it.

—Audrey Austin,