"To get the full value of joy
you must have someone to divide it with."
~ Mark Twain

All-Around READing Dogs
Florida ~ "La Vie"  

La Vie, in French, means “the life.” As a member of the R.E.A.D.ing Paws Program since 2011, La Vie is an extraordinary example of a therapy dog. Although the official minimum age for therapy dogs to be registered is now one year, when Scott wanted to have La Vie tested for therapy work in 2004 no one could find an age limit in the guidelines, and they probably did not expect him to pass anyway. La Vie passed the test, and at 19 weeks he was so small they had to put him in a chair for the security department to take his picture!

Golden Retriever pup qualifies for therapy registration.

Ready and willing!

During his first day in the hospital he met 2 very young children. He went up to them to smell their feet and then lay down and rolled over. Scott did not teach him to do that and says La Vie has always been very intuitive; there is still no answer other than it happened.

Golden retriever therapy dog visits hospital patient.

Happy together then, and 5 years later this young
girl no longer has leukemia .

Another day La Vie crawled up onto a bed to reach a child’s chin. He licked her once, then laid his head on her chest. All of a sudden she had a seizure, and La Vie had recognized it before it happened although he was never trained for seizure.

Golden retriever therapy dog bonds with a new friend.

Bonding with a new friend.

La Vie has not only helped in the hospitals and school classrooms, but he has also helped Scott every day. When it’s difficult to get up, when his muscles are hurting, he gets up and goes because La Vie wants to go. He says that although he can spend only about 3 hours a day on his feet, he would not change a thing about his life.

La Vie will officially retire at the end of the 2015 school year; but, Scott says, as long as he will chase a ball, he will find a way to throw it.

Books about Golden Retrievers include:

Life is Good: Lessons in Joyful Living, by Trixie Koontz, dog, edited by Dean Koontz
The Angel by My Side: The True Story of the Dog Who Saved a Man...and the Man Who Saved a Dog, by Mike Lingenfelter
The Secret of Saying Thanks, by Douglas Wood

(Click on the titles above for a brief description and convenient ordering information.)

Golden Retrievers like La Vie pictured here with his R.E.A.D.® partner, Scott, have long been a favorite pet and one of America’s most popular breeds. In fact, because of an idea thought up by fourth-grade students at Daybreak Elementary in Utah, and after an appearance by a Golden Retriever therapy dog named Gus at the witness stand with his owner, SB53, which would declare the Golden Retriever the official “state domestic animal,” was sent on to the full Senate in February 2015.

Golden Retriever therapy dog in Florida

La Vie and Scott,
life is good.

After Scott had to retire early due to post-polio issues, he decided he couldn’t just sit around but wanted to do something. He loved working with dogs his whole life, training hunting dogs as a child with his father and then obedience and agility as an adult. He wanted to give back and thought therapy volunteering would be easy. He says it was not, and that although his dog was amazing and very confident and smart, he himself needed a lot of help. Nevertheless, he persevered and eventually became a Pet Partner licensed evaluator and instructor. Although he stopped counting after 3,000 hours, he knows he spent 1,100 hours just in the hospital. They likely have a total of more than 5,000 hours volunteering wherever someone wanted him and La Vie.

This golden retriever is a therapy dog and visits special needs children.

La Vie lets this little guy check out his mouth.

La Vie has been visiting an elementary school for almost 3 years, letting kids read to him. Those kids read to him for practice but also love to see one of his many tricks. Some of the tricks that make the kids laugh include when he’s told to play dead--he keeps wagging his tail, until told that dead dogs don’t wag their tails. Then he stops. He knows how to pray at a chair with his head down, paws on the chair, and he knows how to back up if someone says, “beep-beep-beep.”

Scott comments that one of his most amazing R.E.A.D. stories is about a little girl whose parent had been murdered, and she was very fearful. One day she came into the room and asked if she could hug La Vie. Scott said sure, and then she said I hope I can find a dog like La Vie one day. Scott says that bought him to tears.

Scott appreciates that there are a lot of great dogs in the R.E.A.D. Program giving their all to help kids, and he feels the R.E.A.D.ing Paws Program is just amazing. He says that for him, “…just to be allowed to help kids in any fashion is the greatest gift of life. Top that off with an amazing dog and life gets no better.”