DOC Dogs Making a Difference

DOC Dogs Making a Difference, a feature article showcasing DOC therapy dogs and their handlers making a difference in the communities they serve.

Daisy and I visited an assisted living facility by ourselves. These are special days because you can spend one on one, quality, quiet time with each person. We visited with a special lady, who had lost her vision. She remembered Daisy, and after feeling Daisy’s tutu, laughed and asked what she was wearing.

FullSizeRender-2Daisy was being a little squirmy for some reason. We talked and she said she wished she could see Daisy better, but she was so glad to be petting her. Daisy started settling down. She said she guessed her loss of vision was her “suffering” the Lord had put on her, and we all had a cross to bear. I told her that I believe we all go through suffering, but that He is always with us.

About this time, Daisy laid on her back, looking up at the woman listening intently while the woman petted her. She told me she had accepted her “cross to bear” and did not let it get her down. Then, like it was written in a script, she felt Daisy’s “nub.” She looked towards me and said, “She is missing a leg!” I said, “Yes she is!”

With tears in her eyes she said, “And it doesn’t stop her from doing anything, does it?” I said, “No ma’am, it doesn’t!” She hugged Daisy and said “You are disabled like me!” We both had tears. It was such a comfort for this lady to bond with someone (a little diva dog) who had a disability. Daisy had no idea what she did that day!

Submitted by Kristy Blackwell

Posted in General, Inspirational, Success Stories, Testimonials

Positive Reinforcement with Pet Writer, Amber Kingsley

Amber Kingsley has donated countless hours to supporting her local shelter Karma Rescue within operations and outreach. She attends regular seminars, including Dr. Ian Dunbar, and 50 Shades of Bark in Burbank. She has spent most of her animal research in food-related subjects of health and training, and has tried numerous methods of training with local Southern California trainers.

Amber is a BFA graduate of a liberal arts university. She majored in art history and is now traveling as much as possible, working as a freelance writer. She has a Yorkie puppy named Charles (“Charlie”) Xavier.

Amber Kingsley Introduces Positive Reinforcement, a Dog Training Infographic

With the advent of the internet, social media and YouTube, we’ve all seen our fair share of cats playing the piano and dogs riding skateboards, but even those viral videos didn’t propel those animals to the status of being a household name. Dogs like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin had a notoriety matched by few other canines throughout history.

Successfully trained dogs can hold down a number of different careers, service animals, sheep herders, security and police dogs are all good examples. Even playful, family pets need discipline in order to be happy and healthy. The following infographic points out the best training tips for using positive reinforcement through rewards and praise.

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Positive Reinforcement Infographic Created by Amber Kingsley


Posted in General, Inspirational

Dogs on Call and the Smith Center Form Unique Partnership‬

SmithCenterGroupAn interview with Jess Butrica, Executive Director of The Autauga/Western Elmore Arc (AWE Arc), a membership organization which advocates for and supports persons with intellectual disabilities. AWE Arc operates four programs in the River Region: The Louise M. Smith Developmental Center (Smith Center) which is for day habilitation, a Supported Employment Program, The Doris Jean Grant Residential Program and the Early Infant Education Intervention Opportunities Program (E.I.E.I.O.).

The Smith Center became an Easter Seals Dogs on Call (DOC) venue in March 2015. We visit on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month and the Venue Leader is Alex Mahnesmith, a DOC member with two certified dogs, Gucci and Muffin. ‬

Tell us a little about the Smith Center.

We have 65 people who attend the Smith Center Day Program. Everyone enrolled in the Smith Center has some level of intellectual disability. They receive a Medicaid Waiver, which pays for their day habilitation services year-round. Many people we serve also have additional diagnoses. Their limitations may cause them to have physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral differences.

‪Of those 65 people, 16 are residents of our program. They live in AWE Arc group homes throughout the community. Additionally, about 25 others reside in group homes with other providers in the area. Sadly, many of the people who attend our day program do not have active relationships with their families. Some have no family at all and have either been placed in the homes by family who can no longer care for them or they’ve been court appointed to a residential program. Coming to the Smith Center Monday-Friday is a big part of their life. It is here that they get to socialize with their friends and have community integration experiences, such as the Dogs on Call visits.SmithCenter3

‪And what about Jess Butrica?

I’ve been at Autauga/ Western Elmore Arc for 8 years. I’ve been Executive Director for nearly 2 years.   I am a dog lover. I have three dogs: Porkchop, Sweetpea, and my newest puppy, Moonshine. I grew up around dogs and I guess it just stuck. I am a single mother of my 4-year old daughter, Addison. Addison has special needs and receives various therapies to help with her delays. She does well around animals too! I hope to raise Moonshine as her buddy and hope to train him to be a therapy dog so he can be of service to others. Other than being a working mommy, I enjoy camping in my free time; I also enjoy sports and body art!

How did this partnership with DOC come about?

‪As I mentioned, I am a dog lover. So I know that there is a sort of calming and comfort effect to being around a dog.  When I was approached with the idea of having these dogs come in to our agency, I couldn’t contact DOC fast enough. I catch myself wondering why we never thought of this before? When you think about the people we serve and their limitations, it just makes sense. We are so thankful to have established this partnership with Dogs on Call! Everyone has been so kind through the whole thing. It wasn’t something we could just jump right into. First a trust needed to be established between the dogs and the people here at the Smith Center, and vice versa. The dogs and handlers have a unique level of patience that we appreciate so much. ‬

‪What has been the response to the visits from everyone at the Smith Center? ‬

‪The overall reaction to the Dogs on Call therapy dogs is remarkable. So many of our folks have not been around dogs all of their life and to see them react to them is very heartwarming. They take so well to the dogs. Then the select few that may have grown up with pets in the home and no longer have them; they get so excited to have them visit.  It helps that the dogs are very calm and approachable. ‬

‪Can you think of a specific incident that has stood out to you personally? ‬

SmithCenter4One notable moment that I will never forget is when one of our guys, Marquis, first saw the dogs. Marquis was new to our program and we really didn’t know a lot about him. We did know that he didn’t talk much, if at all. He even had some behavior concerns that we were trying to work through. When Marquis first saw one of the dogs (Roxie), a light came upon his face. He grabbed her and loved on her. He was all smiles and he even spoke to the dog.  This may not seem like much to the average person. But if you’ve been around people with disabilities, it is this type of situation that can be a major breakthrough for us. We are constantly trying to figure out what works and doesn’t work for the people we support. This works for Marquis! He now looks forward to seeing Roxie and her pals every two weeks!

Posted in Events, General, In The News, Special Needs Children, Success Stories

An Interview with Kerry Cherry, Miracle League of Montgomery Commissioner and DOC Member


Kerry Cherry (on right) acting as handler for DOC therapy dog, Eli, during a recent Miracle League of Montgomery game.

Kerry Cherry is the Commissioner of the Montgomery Miracle League, member of Dogs on Call (DOC), and a great partner to our organization. We asked her a few questions about this partnership, one that is unique within the national Miracle League Organization.

So how did you get involved with the Miracle League of Montgomery? 

I have a heart for kids with special needs and love working with them. When the Montgomery Miracle League held the very first registration in February of 2005, I went to sign up to be a “Buddy.” I told the baseball commissioner I just wanted to walk with the kids around the bases. Well, I eventually took over all the duties of the commissioner and by the end of the inaugural season; I was (unanimously) voted president by the ballpark board of directors.

How did Dogs on Call become a partner with the Miracle League?

In March of 2011, Young Meadows Presbyterian Church held a season kickoff party for the Miracle League. They invited many organizations that assist those with special needs. One of those invited to the event was DOC. I met Mark and we talked and I invited DOC to come and be a part of our Miracle League games.

kerry3What is the role of the therapy dogs with the Miracle League? ‬

The dogs have helped provide encouragement, motivation, and even provided a calming presence for some of our kids who get overwhelmed. Some dogs are “dugout dogs,” while others run with the players around the bases.

Can you tell us a few stories about the difference the DOC dogs have made with players?

I am seeing more eye contact from many players with autism. I am seeing more kids starting to become more vocal and more social. I have a couple players who just weren’t motivated to run the bases. But bring a dog in the game and they’re ready to play along side their four legged friends! I even have a few players who were afraid of dogs who now can’t wait to see them each week.

‪Do you have a favorite DOC dog? ‬

Oh, my… my favorite dog? They are all amazing and I love them all! But, I’m partial to Chihuahuas, so Rosco and Minnie May are close to the top. And there’s just something about Roxie, Eli and Millie. And then there’s Dixie. And Daisy. They are all wonderful!

‪What has DOC meant to you personally? ‬

I love DOC and everyone in it. We are a family. It is a very special group of people and I feel so honored to be a part.  My own dog, who was a rescue, failed the class – twice. But I love the program and the partnership it has with the Miracle League, and I wanted to be a part of it. I love what they do and I have seen first hand the difference this kerry2program makes in the lives of so many. So in the Fall of 2013, I was able to test with Millie and Roxie and became a certified DOC handler. As far as I know, I am the only member who doesn’t have a dog in the program! But, I am available to assist those who have more than one dog. I love going to the various venues and watching the smiles we get. My heart is to serve others. I do that through running the Miracle League and being a handler with the DOC.

To learn more about Miracle League of Montgomery, visit the Montgomery Miracle League Facebook page.

Posted in General, In The News, Inspirational, Special Needs Children, Success Stories, Testimonials

Pawsitive Pointers by Mark Vosel, Providing Leadership


markceasaar2Welcome to Pawsitive Pointers by Mark Vosel, a feature that will assist ALL dog owners with training tips that can be incorporated into our daily lives.

Providing Leadership

Three large dogs have made life interesting, to say the least. There is always one in the pack (Lucy) that has a tendency to be the life of the party and ramps up the energy in a heartbeat. We had visitors the other day and I ended up throwing her famous blue ball in the yard to sap some of that nervous energy so she would calm down! I can’t say it was a proud ‘trainer’ moment, but hey, sometimes you do what has to be done. ‬

‪Dog ‘energy’ is more than activity; it is actually a mysterious force. My understanding is growing in this area, but because none of us are dogs, we will never fully ‘get it’. Dogs size each other’s energy up very quickly and establish pecking order.  My goal for group training situations is to find the dog or dogs with the unbalanced energy. Like magic, remove them and the rest will immediately resort to a calm, orderly and submissive pack. ‬

‪So the question is…what do you do with a dog with unbalanced, nervous, disruptive energy? As challenging as Lucy can be at times, I have had success with being consistent and offering leadership and discipline. (Remember ‘discipline’ is NOT punishment, it is being consistent with what you expect from your dog.) ‬FullSizeRender3

‪After her usual frenetic outbursts, I will simply stand over her, snap my finger, and point to a dog bed behind a chair in a corner. She will quickly go there and lie down. It is a sign to her that I have had enough of her tomfoolery and now I am offering her a place to calm down and get under control. To her, it is leadership and offers security. ‬

‪I also do this shortly after all dogs come in from the outside; I let them greet us, but after that, I snap my fingers and say, ‘All dogs lie down’. And they do. And when they don’t, it is usually due to INCONSISTENCY. And from a very practical standpoint, my own laziness causes this inconsistency. (You know, ‘hard tasks’ like getting out of your recliner if need be.) ‬

‪Am I unaffectionate when it comes to dogs? Are you kidding me? With Golden Retrievers? There is plenty of time for that! But I can just tell you from experience, dogs crave leadership from their humans. In fact, leadership is a great way to show dogs affection.  Good energy happens when they are secure— and security is achieved through consistent, positive leadership. And I seem to have to remind myself of this constantly, as Lucy was put in my life to keep me humble! Until next time…‬


Posted in General, Inspirational

DOC Returning to Huntingdon College

huntingdon2DOC was asked to come to Huntingdon College this past December for an event that was called ‘Pets on the Porch.” The purpose of this visit was to provide some stress relief for the students during the final exams of the Fall Semester. It was one of those events that just grew as the two day period unfolded.

According to Camilla Irwin, Director of Student Health Services, the students, staff, and faculty enjoyed our dogs so much and they are eagerly anticipating our return to Huntingdon for Spring Semester finals. Camilla reported that many students told her that the visits with our DOC dogs was one of the top campus activity of the year.

Easter Seals Dogs on Call will be returning to Huntingdon on May 5th and 6th from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Our members are so looking forward to making this a semi-annual event!


Posted in General

January is Membership Month

miracle5hozPlease provide your current Rabies shot record along with your dues: $50.00 for one dog, $25.00 for each additional dog or Handler in the immediate family. If you have been a DOC member for less than 3 years please contact and arrange for a re-evaluation with Stacy Manning, Mark Vosel, Alan Hackel, or Vania MacCarthy

Please be aware:

  • Members who have been an active member of DOC for 3 years are exempt from having an annual evaluation.
  • If your records/dues aren’t current you are not covered by our liability insurance.
  • Remit your dues payment to the attention of: Lisa Stanton – Office Coordinator, Easter Seals Alabama, Inc., 5960 East Shirley Lane, Montgomery, AL 36117. You may contact Lisa at 334-395-4489.
Posted in General

Montgomery Miracle League Starts New Season

miraclepollyEaster Seals Dogs on Call is thrilled to be entering in to its fourth year of partnership with the Montgomery Miracle League, a baseball program for children and adults with disabilities. Our ‘Dugout Dogs’ have been active participants with the players not only in the dugouts, but on the field!

Kerry Cherry, Director of the Miracle League and fellow DOC member, states: Having the DOC partnership with the MML has been amazing in the changes we’re seeing in many of our players. We are seeing more eye contact, more social interaction, more motivation for the players to try a little harder to make it around the bases, and of course more smiles. This is the best venue DOC has, in MY opinion!

Please feel free to come out and enjoy a game! The season starts on March 27th and runs through May 16th. The field is located in the Edward Thompson Park, 1655 Ray Thorington Rd. –Montgomery, Al 36117. Friday night games start at 6 PM and Saturday games run from 9:30 AM -12:30 PM.

The Miracle League / Dogs on Call experience will is a great way to start a weekend!

For more information about the Montgomery Miracle League, visit their Facebook page.

Posted in Announcements, In The News

Pawsitive Pointers by Mark Vosel, Organic Training

markceasaarWelcome to Pawsitive Pointers by Mark Vosel, a feature that will assist ALL dog owners with training tips that can be incorporated into our daily lives.

Organic Training

Our lives are so busy at times. So how do we maintain our dog’s skills over time without setting up a CGC test course? I find by incorporating the commands that are so necessary during our DOC visits into our daily routines, your dog just responds naturally. I call this ‘Organic Training’—living, breathing, down to earth, real.

As many of you know, our newest dog, Eli, is a ‘foster failure’. He has all the characteristics of a great therapy dog; he is one of the sweetest male dogs I have ever been around in my life. He has been, however, reluctant to go into a ‘down’ position. I decided the easiest way to work on this command was consistently giving it twice a day at meal time, while holding the bowl in front of him. He realized pretty quickly that he wasn’t going to eat until he went down. I found it humorous at first; he would make a groaning sound as he went from a sit to a down, as if to say, ‘OhhhhKaaaaay….now put the bowl down…”

GoldiesAfter a few weeks, it was automatic. No more groaning, no more ‘half-downs’. Some mornings I give the command simply with a hand signal. I also do this with all three dogs when it comes to ‘dessert’ after the meal. It didn’t take Eli anytime to line up with the girls, assume the inspection line in a ‘sit’ and wait patiently for the treat.

As I said in the opening line, our lives are very busy and we sometimes put training on the back burner after our dogs are certified. It is my hope that ‘Pawsitive Pointers’ will be practical and organic as we all strive to maintain the skills and behaviors in our canines that are the bedrock of our wonderful visits!

Until next time,

Posted in General
Program Overview
Easter Seals Alabama DOGS ON CALL  is a 501c3 non-profit organization that trains Therapy Dogs in Alabama.

Our Therapy Dog teams provide comfort to those living with disabilities, suffering trauma or stress, at-risk, or living in rehabilitation centers and hospitals, retirement, nursing and assisted living communities, and youth detention centers.

DOGS ON CALL is a program of Easter Seals Alabama and is a recognized Therapy Dog certifying organization of the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Learn more about DOGS ON CALL.
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