How Bosco Became a Therapy Dog

How Bosco Became a Therapy Dog

Bosco working as a therapy dog at CHOP

Bosco working at CHOP

How Bosco Became a Therapy Dog

Ever since my dog, Bosco, was a puppy I wanted to socialize him as much as I could in a lot of different environments so I could take him just about anywhere.  We would go to different local events where I knew there would be people, kids and other dogs.  About five years ago I took him to a walk benefitting cystic fibrosis in honor of a good friend of mine whose sister had passed away from the disease.   After the walk was over, we were gathered around an area where there were a lot of children playing.  All of a sudden, the kids came running up to Bosco, petting him and asking questions, giving him hugs and tugging on his fluffy fur.  Bosco didn’t seem to be bothered by it one bit.  It actually looked like he liked all the attention!

It didn’t even occur to me that he could be a therapy dog until after I told the story about the kids to my sister, who happens to work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.   She suggested the idea of Bosco becoming a therapy dog.  I had never really thought about it before and decided to do some research into how to get Bosco registered as a therapy dog.  The process was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be.

I contacted Therapy Dogs International, which is a volunteer organization dedicated to testing, regulating and registration therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers.  Bosco had to pass a test reflecting real-life situations designed to simulate a therapy dog visit at a nursing home, hospital or facility where a therapy dog would be needed. 

Bosco the happy therapy dog

Bosco the happy therapy dog

We went on a designated date and time to take the test which consisted of Bosco following some commands:  sit, down, stay.  After that, he was tested for his temperament and behavior.  These tests involved his reactions to different situations including: how he reacted when someone approached him and walked by him, someone in a wheelchair coming up to him, seeing another dog, and loud sounds – which all didn’t seem to bother him one bit.  He passed the test on the first try!  He also had to do a similar test at Penn Veterinary Hospital.  They conduct yearly checkups as part of CHOP’s protocol to be a therapy dog in their pet therapy program.

Once I got my human clearances, we were off to start our visits.  In a nutshell, it consists of Bosco and I visiting designated floors at CHOP and going to each hospital room and seeing if anyone would like a visit.  That could be the child, the parents, visitors or even the nurses or doctors!  We go into the room and say hello.  I try to get Bosco as close as I can so the child can see Bosco up close and pet him.  Bosco has such a laid-back personality.  He seems to really love all the attention and petting that he gets, and sometimes he even gives his paw to those who ask for it! 

It’s truly a wonderful experience being a volunteer.  Sharing my dog with those who don’t get the chance to leave the hospital for any length of time is really rewarding – not only for me, but for Bosco, too!  Bosco and I have been doing therapy work for three years now.   He knows it’s time to go to work when I put his blue bandana on.  He has gotten the routine down so well that after we sign in at the volunteer center at CHOP, he’s already heading to the door to get on the elevator and start doing what he does best – bringing smiles and joy to all those around him!

Lauren Buchak – Bosco’s Owner and GVH Client

Dental Health Food Success Story

Dental Health Food Success Story

A few years ago, Dr. Helfer, a doctor on our GVH team, had a pet with severe dental disease. The cat, a beautiful Siamese, was in repeatedly for dental procedures because of how severe the dental disease was. Medically, the patient needed a dental cleaning every 6 to 8 months. Shortly after, Hill’s Science Diet, came out with t/d, a dental health food and she began feeding t/d to her cat.  Six months later, Dr. Helfer was amazed to find that her pet’s teeth looked as good as the day she did the last dental cleaning.  After exclusively eating t/d the kitty never needed another dental cleaning and was able to live a healthy life.  Though this is not always the case, the doctors of GVH believe t/d is a great choice to help fight dental disease.


Dr. Helfer also finds that her patients love the taste of the food. Because of the large size of the kibble it helps pets to eat slower which helps with digestion.  t/d is safe for patients that have been on Hill’s Science Diet c/d for a period of time and are doing well with their urinary issues.



This is how t/d kibble works!

Fecal Snacks? Why Does My Dog Do “That”?

Fecal Snacks? Why Does My Dog Do “That”?

It’s a common issue that nobody likes to talk about.  You take your dog for a walk and they “do their business” as usual but instead of moving on they turn and gobble it up. Just the thought makes you sick, so why does my dog do “that”? Dogs’ consuming their own feces (or other animals’) is known as coprophagia. Many species of animals do this; however, it is not known exactly why it occurs. It occurs most often in puppies. Luckily, most of the time the puppy will grow out of it as they mature. Nursing mothers also participate in coprophagia until a puppy is about three days old. Since a puppy that young is not able to eliminate on their own the mother will lick her pups to activate the defecation reflex. Mom will consume the fecal in order to maintain cleanliness and to keep predators away. Some dogs continue the habit into adulthood. Going back to 15,000 years dogs were known as the waste management company. They would help keep the land surrounding their settlement clean. Needless to say old habits die hard.

If your pet is currently participating in coprophagia it is important to discuss it with your veterinarian. If your pet isn’t getting nutrient rich balanced diets or if they are unable to digest the nutrition in food they may resort to coprophagia. How to prevent my dog from doing “that”: Since it is natural for a dog to sniff feces as part of their investigative behavior discouraging this will prove difficult.

i will not eat poop

•Be sure to dispose of fecal matter immediately. Disposing of fecal waste will eliminate the option of consuming as well as help with the prevention of worms and intestinal parasites being transmitted.

•Provide your pet with toys and activities that provide exercise.  This will help prevent fecal eating from becoming a compulsive behavior.

•Teach your dog the “leave it” command. See article –

•Use a taste deterrent such as meat tenderizer. Sprinkle your pets’ food with the tenderizer. It will take a couple days to pass through digestion system and be noticeable to your pet in feces. If it’s been more than four days and it has not helped increase the amount sprinkled consistently for another 4 days.

•You can also purchase products at your local pet store that are formulated to make feces less appetizing.

• Keep your pet on a leash when going out and be aware of other pets’ feces.

Chewing is a Common Problem

Chewing is a Common Problem

At some point every dog owner returns home to the unexpected mangled item on the floor.  If you google destructive puppies or dogs there is enough evidence to indicate that chewing is a common problem that almost every owner deals with.  Some dog breeds are more prone to chew that other dog breeds.  The top five dog breeds that love to chew are:  Jack Russell Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Beagles.

As a Labrador retriever owner, I [Practice Manager, Tiffany] can vouch for why this breed has made the list.  My Maggie has found herself chewing on the heels of my new shoes, makeup, Chap Stick and lotion.  Jill and Paige two of our Veterinarian Assistants, have dog breeds that made the list.  They have also come home to destroyed pillows, blankets, woodwork, shoes and many other household items.

Before you can tackle the problem, it is important to understand why your dog or puppy is chewing in the first place.

A few reasons why your puppy may be chewing:

  • Puppies like children go through a teething phase. As their teeth come in their gums will be sore and chewing on something helps to relieve the pain.
  • Puppies are also curious in nature as they explore their new surroundings. It is difficult for them not to put things into their mouth.

A few reasons why your adult dog may be chewing:

  • Your dog may have never been taught what items were appropriate for them to chew on and what items were not appropriate.
  • Your dog may just be bored. Lack of exercise causes them to find something to entertain themselves with and it might just be your shoes.
  • Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Talk to your veterinarian if you think that your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety.
  • Your dog may be chewing out of fear or because they are seeking attention.

Check out our next post that gives tips to combat this common problem:

Teach Your Dog Not to Chew



Resolutions From the Dog

Resolutions From the Dog

With the New Year’s approaching I have decided that it was a good time to start taking better care of myself and improve my behavior. When you thought I was off bothering the cat, I was really contemplating how best to improve myself.  Ok maybe I was bothering the cat, but I just wanted her input, to see if she had any ideas. Which of course she didn’t, but I think she went ahead and made her own list.  So I decided to compile a list of my own top 5 New Year’s resolutions and how you can best help me stay on track.

Resolution #1 – I will not eat poop.

I promise not to eat my or my friend’s poop. I have to be honest with you, it will be hard to break a habit that was programmed in me from my early ancestors.  But I know you think it is gross and it makes you reluctant to accept my adorable doggy kisses. You have always told me to share with my friends, but I guess sharing their intestinal parasites maybe was a little too much sharing.  I thought they were just being generous friends. I will do my best to listen to you when you tell me to “leave it”, if you promise to keep the yard cleaned up where I play. What can I say, old habits die hard!!

Fecal Snacks? Why Does My Dog Do “That”?

Resolution #2 – I will not pull when we go out for walks.

I promise to not pull on the leash when we go for walks. I know it hurts your neck, arm and back. I remember that one time I got so excited because I saw the squirrel, I pulled you off your feet and you skinned your knee. The squirrel was teasing me and I just wanted him to go back to his tree.  I was very sad and felt badly for a long time.  I was really sorry because we could not go out for long walks while your knee healed.

EZ-Harness or Gentle Leader


Resolution #3 – I will not chew on other people’s things

I promise to not chew on other people’s things. I know I am only allowed to chew on my own toys.  Sometimes I get bored or mad when you are busy. Maybe you could help me by keeping my favorite items to chew on out of my reach like your shoes or the trash.  Maybe when you go out put me in my crate so I can’t get in trouble. I do love my crate, it is my own safe bedroom.

Chewing is a Common Problem

Teach Your Dog Not to Chew


Resolution #4 – I will behave during my visits to the veterinary hospital.

I promise to quietly sit in the waiting room and not bark at every person, animal or thing that I see. When called into the room, I will willingly get on the scale and when the doctor comes in I will let him or her examine me, including my ears, eyes, and paws. You know how much I hate those parts touched.  So, if you could bring along my favorite treats or tell me how well I am doing it would help make the visit less stressful.


Resolution #5  – I will help take care of my joints.

I promise to help care for my joints. I will not jump from high places or run after that annoying squirrel that taunts me on our walks. I will try to remember that the squirrel can run quicker and turn sharply compared to me. I will happily go for our leash walks to help keep my joints healthy and help me keep my body lean and in shape.


I will do my best to keep my New Year’s resolutions with your help.

So I will promise to stop:

  • eating feces
  • pulling on the leash when we go for walks
  • chewing on things that are not my toys

I will:

  • behave at the veterinary hospital
  • help care for my joints by walking nicely with you.

I need you to help me: by keeping the yard clean, walking me on a proper leash, keeping items I like to chew on out of my reach, taking me to regular veterinary visits, and maintaining my weight and joints with walks. If we work together we can have a healthy and happy new year!

Teach Your Dog Not to Chew

Teach Your Dog Not to Chew

dental-diseaseLet’s look at some techniques that will help guide you as you teach your dog not to chew. First, let’s get into the right mind set.  It is important to think about rewarding your pet for their good behavior instead of punishing them when they chew.  Just as you would child proof your home for the arrival of a new baby, you should puppy proof your home for your new puppy.

If you are bringing a new puppy or dog home select a variety of toys made with different material and textures until you know what toys your new pet prefers.  Rotate the toys so they are seeing something new every couple of weeks.  This can be an easy way to keep them entertained.

You may have the best toys and have done a great job of rotating them to prevent boredom and still find your pet chewing on items around the house.  Check the items that you find them chewing on and remove any toys that resemble that item.  Your pet may confuse what they can chew on and what they cannot.

While your pet is getting use to their new surroundings you may want to consider a crate.  A crate can be a safe place for your pet to sleep and chew on their own special toys or treats.  When you are home to supervise your pet attach a leash to your pet.  This can serve two purposes if a leash is new for your pet this helps them get use to wearing a leash.  It also acts as a handle for you to easily grab when your pet needs to be redirected.

If you find that your pet is destroying items only when you are away from home, they may need additional exercise to burn off excess energy.  Get your pet on a routine and take them for a long walk in the morning or before you leave the house.  You can also save a special toy like a Kong filled with their favorite treat that they only receive when you are leaving.  If you are unable to correct the behavior their separation anxiety may need to be discussed with your veterinarian.

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