Almost Given Up On, Portia Now Shines as Therapy Dog

Almost Given Up On, Portia Now Shines as Therapy Dog

Portia was a stray, found wandering the streets, and was taken in by Bullmastiff rescue groups after her rescue. But even rescue did not know what to do with her after a foster home did not want her back and adoptive owners returned her. But Kathleen Smiley-Aslup knew there was something special about Portia and today, thanks to Kathleen’s dedication, she is a valued therapy dog who recently qualified for the AKC Therapy Dog Distinguished (THDD) honor for making more than 400 visits!

Portia Rocks Alsup THDD owned by Kathleen Smiley-Aslup of Rockford, IL

Portia was found wandering in Texas. She was heartworm positive and was taken in by a Bullmastiff rescue organization that provided her treatment. She was adopted out twice, but returned. Her second foster parent chose not to take her back.

She needed surgery for entropian, an eye condition, and had other issues. Bullmastiff Rescue Inc. chose to bring her into its organization and placed her in the foster care of Kathleen at age 4 years in March 2013.

“I was to assess and monitor her for a week. She was going to hopefully go to her forever home from there,” Kathleen said.

As a member of the AKC training club, Forest City Dog Training Club, Kathleen took Portia to classes and worked on her socialization skills.  She went home with a loving family, but sadly was returned about two weeks later. Discussion ensued among the rescue groups about what could be done for her or if she should be euthanized.

“During this time, I continued to work with her in obedience and socialization. As she visited my parents, I saw how she reacted to them,” Kathleen said. “She changed her attitude with them and became calmer and leaned up against them for attention.  I thought she would be a great therapy dog.  So I contacted the rescue group and told them she was to be a ‘foster failure’ and would stay with me.”

Within six months, Portia had received her AKC Canine Good Citizen award, her first leg in an obedience trial, and, passed her therapy dog evaluation with Bright and Beautiful. Portia loves to visit at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. 

“She is not bashful and will look winsome at anyone walking by to get their attention. She is happy, outgoing and her personality shines when she wears her red collar to work. Portia visits patients, staff and visitors at the hospital,” Kathleen said.

She is also good with children and has children read to her at various schools.  She helps at children’s events, promoting dog friendly activities, pet care management, therapy dog awareness, and rescue dog awareness. She volunteers as a training aide at the dog club and appears at public relations events for the dog club and hospital.

“She is now an example for the classes I teach at Forest City Dog Training Club and continues to take classes there for socialization. She wasn’t the dog I was looking for, but she is the dog I needed in my life. She has proven that no matter the challenges in a dog’s life, they will always repay with love.”

Portia qualified for the AKC Therapy Dog title program through the AKC Canine Partners program for all dogs, including rescues and mixed-breeds.