Marley the friendly black Lab just what doctor ordered

Marley the therapy dog is admired by Kathy Smith.

It’s nearly impossible for Marley to wipe the toothy grin off his face whenever he’s around people.

In his golden years with gray hairs framing his face, Marley loves to socialize, speaking volumes with his doleful, brown eyes and a wiggle from his hips.

Marley, if you haven’t already guessed, is a 14-year-old black lab. He offers therapy to children and senior citizens, making the rounds each week with owner Annette Beeler.

“People don’t remember me, they remember my dog,” Beeler said, only half-joking.

Beeler rescued Marley, an abandoned dog picked up while roaming fields between Fruita and Loma. After training and having him certified as a therapy dog, Marley now listens as children with disabilities read books to him. He visits the elderly in nursing homes, enjoying every pat and snuggle.

There’s always a need for people to train dogs and volunteer their services at local institutions, said Cathryn Clark, a certified educator for Therapy Dogs International Inc. She and her therapy dog, Missy, were busy earlier this month creating smiles on the faces of residents at The Atrium.

Clark is one of three certified educators in the state and offers training sessions once a month all summer at Sherwood Park.

Those who train and maintain therapy dogs should know it’s a lot of work to bathe the dogs before every visit. Dogs also must have their nails trimmed often. Of course, the animals must be friendly in all sorts of situations and become accustomed to indoor environments, especially around wheelchairs and walkers.

“I always ask people, ‘Would you leave your grandchild with the dog?’ ” Clark said.

Petting a dog is known to lower blood pressure and can increase focus. For someone who must stay in bed all day, having a dog visit can change their outlook. It can help provide an incentive for people to move their limbs when they need to reach out and pet the dog.

“They bring so much comfort to people who are ill,” Clark said.

For more information on training your dog as a therapy dog, contact Clark at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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