‘Tail Wagging Tutor’ helps kids read
There’s something very compelling about Quincy, the Golden Retriever. Not only is he an exceptionally beautiful dog, but he also exudes a certain charm; a glowing karma that naturally draws people to him. And lately he’s been putting these attributes to good use, listening to children read through his “Tail Waggin Tutor” program or bringing a little solace to homeless families at Frederick Place. He does it all with an easy aplomb, and makes friends and fans where ever he travels. People just can’t seem to get enough of this big dog with his gentle ways and friendly demeanor.
Quincy is a certified and titled therapy dog. His companion, Nancy Diepenbrock, trained him just for that purpose. Nancy’s wish to become the handler of a therapy dog came after meeting one first hand while working her job as a critical care nurse in a busy Dallas, Texas hospital. “Here came this dog into my unit and I just melted,” she said. “That dog brought so much joy into the hospital setting I decided right there I wanted to become involved and train a therapy dog. I wanted to be able to bring that kind of joy to others.”
Nancy has always been an animal lover. In fact, Quincy is the fifth Golden Retriever she has had in her life. Then a couple of years ago, circumstances landed her in Eagle River after she retired from a 31-year career in nursing. That’s when she got Quincy. “I did research on what kinds of personality’s therapy dogs must have,” she said. “Then I found a Golden Retriever breeder. I told her what I was looking for and she actually showed me two puppies she thought would fit the bill and she was right on with Quincy.”
From the moment Nancy got Quincy, she started grooming him to become a therapy dog. She took him to grocery store parking lots where noisy carts clattered passed; she exposed him to many children; enrolled him in a puppy kindergarten class and introduced him to as many unusual circumstances as she could. When he became a little older she took him through a basic obedience class and then an agility class, both of which he passed with flying colors. Then she decided Quincy might enjoy a Scent Games 101 course. “He was really a dunce in this class,” Nancy laughed. “He just couldn’t get the purpose of it.”
But Quincy got the purpose of being a therapy dog. Therapy Dogs International (TDI) requires that a canine be at least one year of age when they test to become a certified therapy dog, which is a different program than what service dogs train for. Therapy dogs are not trained to open doors, pick up objects or lead the blind. A therapy dog’s main purpose is to provide a calm and loving presence to people in nursing homes, schools, hospitals and wherever they are needed.
Quincy had to pass 15 tests to become certified. Some of the challenges of these tests included accepting a friendly stranger; being groomed by a stranger; coming when called; walking through a crowd and staying calm when presented with a noisy group of children. These tests proved to be a piece of cake for this big, furry boy. “I think he was born to be a therapy dog,” said Nancy. “He didn’t have any trouble at all passing his tests.”
Once Quincy was certified, Nancy decided to start a therapy dog group in the Northwoods. “The closest chapter was in Mosinee,” she said. “But I wanted one up here so people could join and not have to drive quite as far. We’re Chapter 250 with Therapy Dog’s International.”
At first business was slow, but Nancy expected that. However, once she started giving presentations on just what Quincy could provide, it became quickly obvious the dog was going to have quite a career. “Oh we’re getting booked pretty steadily,” said Nancy. “Before I was looking for places to take Quincy and now I’m looking for more people and their dogs to join the therapy program.”
Quincy has quite a beat. He’s a regular at Pelican Elementary School, where he sits quietly while children read to him. His Tail Waggin’ Tutors program provides an unconditional ear to children who are struggling with reading. He also just recently got booked on a regular basis at the Rhinelander District Library where youngsters can come in for 10 minute reading shifts while Quincy sits on his own pillow and listens. “My son really didn’t like reading all that much before he met Quincy,” said one parent. “Now he can’t wait to read. It’s truly amazing the difference this dog has made.”
Watching the children read to this golden beauty is extraordinary. There is no sense of self consciousness as they greet the friendly retriever confidently and then begin to read to their new friend. Quincy listens patiently and only raises his head when they stop. Sometimes a little hand will reach out and touch the dog gently and Quincy shifts his big brown eyes in encouragement.
Nancy sits by quietly, sometimes helping the children get through a tough word. But it’s Quincy the children gravitate toward. People also gravitated toward this comforting canine when Nancy was a Salvation Army bell ringer this past Christmas. “People were waiting in line to put money into the bucket,” she laughed. “Some people even went into the store and bought him treats!”
Nancy has taken her pooch to Nicolet College during final exam time so staff and students can get a little relief from their studies and Quincy may also soon become a regular at Howard Young Medical Center, the Eagle River Hospital and Ministry Saint Mary’s Hospital too. He visits homeless shelters, nursing homes like the Milestone Senior Center and he’s expanding his “Tail Waggin’ Tutor” program by becoming a regular not only at Pelican School, but also at the Rhinelander District Library. “He’s really a favorite and we’re getting more and more calls,” said Nancy. “We really would like more members to join our chapter.”
For now though, Nancy is enjoying filling her retirement days chauffeuring Quincy around to his many “jobs” so he can interact with his fan base. The pair brings smiles, and sometimes even tears to the eye, when they walk through the door. “You know a dog doesn’t care about your reading ability, your infirmaries or whatever other problem you might have,” said Nancy. “Quincy loves people and when he walks through a door everyone just lights up. Sometimes a little doggie love is all it takes to make the world a better place.”
Editor’s note: To invite Quincy to an event, email Nancy Diepenbrock at [email protected], or call (715) 479-2498. To learn more about Therapy Dogs International, call (973) 252-9800, or email [email protected].
Associate Editor Mary Ann Doyle is available at [email protected].