As 2016 drew to a close, Lydia Smith and her family were looking to bring another dog into their lives. Having shared their Texas Hill Country home with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Koki for several years, they decided to add another member of the beloved Herding Group breed to the mix.
While researching Corgi rescues online, Smith came across a scruffy-looking, 7-year-old creature who clearly had experienced a rough past. Straightaway, she knew that she had found the right dog at the right time. Smith dubbed the dog “Drover,” a nod to the breed’s purpose-bred heritage of droving cattle, and soon welcomed him to his new home.
“Drover suffered many years of neglect before his owner passed away. He was then abandoned by the extended family,” says Smith. “He was an old, injured, mostly bald, discarded Corgi. When we saw his profile, it was love at first sight and we knew Drover belonged in our family.”
Drover had been stepped on by livestock years before, crushing bones and damaging nerves in his paw. His prior owner hadn’t provided any medical care, so the paw never healed properly. Despite his injury, however, Drover seemed upbeat and eager to acclimate to his new life. So, Smith got Drover the veterinary care he needed and fitted him with a removable leg brace to support and protect his injured paw. Next, she got busy with basic obedience training for enrichment and socialization, and to make up for years of lost time.
These days, Drover is an accomplished therapy dog, having earned the title of “Therapy Dog Excellent” (THDX) upon completing his 200th career visit. He’s also a Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D.), a participant in the AKC PupPals program, and has even earned a Trick Dog title.
What helped pave the way for Drover’s sustained second act success is the obedience, manners, and confidence he gained through the AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program.
How CGC Helped Drover
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed standard describes a dog with a “bold outlook, but kindly.” The AKC further characterizes them as “strong, athletic, and lively… affectionate and companionable without being needy.”
“Pembrokes are a well-rounded breed,” affirms Smith. “They are playful and loyal, and highly trainable and hardworking. They’re equally at home working cattle in a pasture or living in Buckingham Palace.”
Smith knew Drover possessed the temperament to be a confident and contented canine. However, as a 7-year-old dog with a history of mistreatment and a permanent paw injury, Drover faced an uphill battle. After he showed promise in training classes, though, Smith determined CGC to be the logical next step in his development.
AKC Canine Good Citizen focuses on basic skills that help dogs and owners forge the best bond they can together. Beyond instilling abilities in both dog and owner, the CGC program helps perpetuate the enjoyment gained from sharing our world with well-behaved animals.
Before each dog attempts their ten-step CGC test, humans must take the Responsible Dog Ownership Pledge, wherein owners vow to maintain their dogs’ health, safety, manners towards others, and quality of life. The second part of CGC is the test itself, which evaluates dogs on skills like coming when called, accepting friendly strangers, dealing with distractions, walking through crowds, and more. Despite his physical limitations, Drover passed his test with ease. He’d earned his first AKC title and proved that old dogs can indeed learn new tricks.
“The skills mastered in CGC, such as recall, ‘wait’, and ‘leave it‘ are so important for any dog to have!” says Smith. “Basic obedience is a great start. But knowing your dog is capable of performing commands, even with distractions, gives them confidence and gives you peace of mind when you’re in public together. Plus, training is great for mental health and improves dogs’ quality of life. It provides great stimulation and exercises the brain.”
Second Act Success
After securing their CGC, Smith and Drover became determined to earn further titles, with an eye on therapy dog training. Drover first needed an AKC number, though, having never received paperwork as a puppy. As a purebred Pembroke, he was eligible to enroll in the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program. PAL gives non-registered purebred dogs a chance to participate in AKC Performance and Companion Events.
Following that, Smith and Drover began therapy training in earnest. In July 2017, just nine months after being rescued, Drover became certified through Paws 4 Hearts Working Therapy Dogs, and approved to begin volunteering. Since then, Smith and Drover have averaged about two visits a week. Their favorite facilities include local assisted living centers, public libraries, schools, and the San Antonio Military Medical Center. With 200+ visits under his belt, Drover has already earned the AKC’s second-highest therapy dog title. Through the R.E.A.D. program, Drover is also helping childhood literacy and communication by volunteering to have children read to him.
“Corgis are a herding breed, and like all working dogs, Drover loves having a job,” says Smith. “Earning our CGC has given us the opportunity to become a therapy dog team and R.E.A.D. team. Drover was also able to build on his CGC foundation by earning his AKC Community Canine title. We plan to continue training and working towards our Urban Canine Good Citizen.”
An especially impactful part of Drover’s therapy role is shining a light on the accomplishments possible in the face of physical limitations. When on visits, Drover often wears his removable leg brace on his paw. Naturally, this leads to questions about his injury, but Smith says she is often struck by the empathy she experiences. Instead of a disabled dog, most simply see Drover as confident and convivial Corgi.
“Drover may be specially-abled, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves!” says Smith. “The most rewarding part of owning a specially-abled pet is the bond that you share. Drover knows we are going to take care of him so he loves and trusts us deeply. It’s special to see how people respond to Drover’s disability. There’s a lot of compassion. We all face difficulties in life and can relate to Drover’s story of overcoming adversity.”
Clearly, the sky is the limit for the ever-determined Drover and Smith. If you’re interested in keeping up with this precocious pair’s ongoing adventures, be sure to follow Drover on Instagram.
Earning Your CGC
If Drover and Smith have inspired you to try to take the Canine Good Citizen test, you can get started right away by finding a CGC class and evaluator. The Canine Good Citizen program is open to all dogs. If you have a special CGC story to share, be sure to tag any photos posted with #ThisisAKC and #CGC on Instagram.
The AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) program has been the gold standard of dog behavior since 1989. Thirty years later, more than 1 million dogs have passed their CGC test. In honor of over a million Canine Good Citizens, we’ve launched a monthly “CGC & Me” series, highlighting the amazing stories of AKC CGC dogs and their owners.