Bari looks like an ordinary dog, a happy bundle of light cream-colored curls and tail wags, but don’t let that fool you. This 22-month-old is a political powerhouse.
He’s the inspiration that led New York to choose the service- and working dog as the state’s first canine mascot.
Bari is the beloved pet of Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-Staten Island), sponsor of New York’s state-dog bill. It was recently approved by both houses of the legislature and awaits the governor’s signature to become law.
Titone, 54, has had dogs in his life from the very beginning.
“When they brought me home from the hospital there was a Dachshund and a German Shepherd waiting for me,” Titone told the AKC during a phone interview. “I’ve never had a moment without dogs in my life.”
But through all those years, he never met anyone like Bari. As soon as the 8-week-old puppy came home, Titone realized this dog was something special, extraordinarily tuned in to human feelings.
Despite the demands of Titone’s profession, he took the time to train his precocious pup for one of the most important jobs there is—therapy dog. Bari quickly learned the special skills required and Titone registered as a therapy team with Angel on a Leash.
Bari now works with non-verbal pre-school autistic children and young adults dealing with drug problems, homelessness, and prostitution. Watching Bari made Titone realize that canine helpers deserve to be honored, especially the service- and working dogs who are out there every day protecting, guarding, and guiding.
“Once I actually saw him working and the result of his work, that’s when I knew in my heart of hearts that this was the right thing to do. It’s not just a fun piece of feel-good legislation, but this can be a critical tool in honoring and making people aware of how much dogs bring to our lives.”
Titone’s experience with his own dog made him think about how many jobs dogs do for humans, from helping kids learn to read to searching for the dangerous convicts who recently broke out of a New York prison. “It’s just mind-blowing! And the science is there, 110 percent, backing up the work that they do.”
To learn more about working dogs, visit http://www.akc.org/events/title-recognition-program/search-and-rescue/.
– Mara Bovsun
Titone and Bari work the room.