They’re adored for being heroes on four — or fewer — paws, so what pup wouldn’t want to grow up to be a therapy dog? Around the world, these community-minded canine volunteers don their vests before visiting the schools, hospitals, and nursing homes where a bit of puppy love is needed. It’s not unusual for rescue dogs to find themselves in this role. In fact, many of Dogster’s Monday Miracle alumni have found success as therapy dogs after being adopted. This week, though, we’re not celebrating a dog who’s succeeded — we’re applauding one who has failed.
“Everything happens for a reason,” says author Michelle Jansick, whose 6-year-old mutt Chipper has found success as a therapy dog dropout.
“The fact that she failed at the therapy dog program means that she’s able to reach a lot more people than she would have otherwise, and inspire them.”
As the narrator of Jansick’s book, Chipper’s Friends: The Heartwarming Story of an Imperfect Dog, Chipper is helping readers realize that you don’t have to be perfect to make a difference. The story was originally written to appeal to middle-aged women, but according to Jansick, the tale of Chipper’s fall from therapy-dog grace has found readers in every age group. Chipper now has Facebook fans in 75 countries, and while her inspiring story has a happy ending, Chipper’s beginnings were anything but.
“The Colorado Puppy Rescue saved her life. In 2009, she was a stray pup in New Mexico,” Jansick tells Dogster.
Chipper was 8 months old when she met Jansick, who saw the potential other adopters couldn’t.
“Chipper was at two different adoption events, and nobody wanted her because she was so terrified of people,” Janisck remembers. “She actually peed whenever anyone got close to her.
Thankfully, Chipper’s peeing problem proved to be short-lived. The mixed-breed pup only had one indoor accident after going home with Jansick and her husband.
“She just needed some love and confidence,” says Jansick.
It seemed that finally getting adopted had done wonders for Chipper, but the former stray was still on the shy side. Knowing that her pup needed more exposure to people, Jansick decided that field trips could help Chipper get over her remaining fears.
“I started taking her to different places that allowed dogs in stores — pet stores, home improvement stores, anywhere. As soon as I did that, it was an instant turnaround.”
Suddenly, the pup who had once peed when approached by people was asking strangers to pet her. Thanks to the outings, Chipper had turned into a little social butterfly — something Jansick remembers recognizing when the duo ran into a group of disabled young adults at a Bass Pro shop.
“She just had a way with them,” Jansick recalls. “She allowed them to pet her, and she wasn’t nervous, and they just loved her so much. I just thought, she needs to be a therapy dog.”
After learning about the testing requirements for therapy dogs, Jansick started training Chipper. The pair began volunteering at seniors’ homes and group homes while working toward certification. Eventually, Chipper passed her tests, and it was official — the former stray was now a certified therapy dog.
As we know, Chipper’s career as a therapy dog didn’t last long. She outgrew puppyhood, her personality changed, and she developed an unfortunate habit of barking at little old ladies. Unable to bring Chipper to seniors’ homes any longer, Jansick pulled her pup out of the therapy dog program.
“It was right around the time that, apparently, dogs reach their rebellious adolescent stage,” she says with a laugh.
Although the sun had set on Chipper’s time as a therapy dog, Jansick knew her dog’s story could still make a difference in the world. She began working on Chipper’s book, which has benefited many causes since its initial publication in 2013.
“We donate 50 percent of the book profits each month to help children and animals, and so far, since the book has been published, we’ve been able to donate over three thousand dollars,” Jansick explains.
In some situations, Jansick and Chipper donate cash to the organizations they support, but sometimes they also purchase goods, like pet food for the Colorado Pet Pantry, or pizzas for youth at a homeless shelter. Helping kids is a big part of Chipper’s mission.
“We work a lot with trying to put an end to child trafficking,” says Jansick, who has harnessed Chipper’s social media success to raise funds for Love146, an organization dedicated to ending the exploitation of children and helping the survivors.
In addition to donating book profits to Love146, Chipper has also sold paw print paintings and solicited sponsors for her high-five challenge (in which she did high-fives for 60 straight seconds), bringing in $400 and $1,700 respectively for the organization.
Chipper’s philanthropic mission is spreading among her fan base. Readers have contacted Chipper with stories of how she inspired them to volunteer at an animal shelter, or how her story prompted them to give cards to seniors in their area. Chipper’s influence on the world around her has certainly been miraculous. The once-frightened stray may be a therapy dog dropout, but she has no plans to quit publishing.
“Right now we’re concentrating on the sequel,” says Jansick, who, like Chipper, believes that when one doggy door closes, another opens.
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.