About four years ago, I—along with my rottweiler—was involved in a severe car accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This mishap resulted in staggering medical bills for the both of us. Through generous programs such as Vocational Rehabilitation and Project Access, I was able to receive surgeries that would have otherwise been impossible to obtain. Additionally, my dog received four surgeries donated by a local veterinary specialist. Due to my leg injuries, it was apparent that I would no longer be able to work with animals, and volunteering as a wildlife rehabilitator was part of that work. I decided to give back to the medical community by training my other rottweiler as a therapy dog.
Recently, after a practice run visiting “pretend” patients, we went to a local restaurant for lunch—our routine for over seven months. On this occasion, I was approached by a very rude woman who asked me how I could possibly consider using a rottweiler for therapy, as they are very “nasty” animals. I was speechless as she verbally attacked both of us, especially since my dog only showed her minor interest and completey ignored the other canine present.
Perhaps this woman is unaware that numerous rottweilers work as service dogs. Carl, the beloved rottie featured in Alexandra Day’s children’s books, was used for a portrait honoring an important therapy dog in a San Diego hospital. The author was so impressed by his work that she then trained and certified two of her own rottweilers for physical, occupational and speech therapy. The author states in one of her books that “because Carl is already known to many children, he is especially useful for work with them.”
I took the rude woman’s inappropriate comments personally, as I am extremely attached to animals. I have donated many hours and dollars to injured, abused, orphaned and abandoned domestic pets and wild animals. I have now chosen to give back through animal therapy, using the unconditional love from a dog to hopefully bring some happiness to those who appreciate animal companionship. In a few months, this dog’s behavior will be tested by professionals and hopefully she will become certified. It takes quite a bit of time and training to get to that point. Maybe that woman should acquire [a dog from] her idea of a suitable breed and donate her time to this worthy cause, instead of insulting someone already doing so.
— Kim Sabel