I can’t believe how fast July flew by! It’s now August and it’s time for MAST’s dog of the month! This month, I get to interview my very own fluffball. He’s the fluffiest softest MASTdog. Let’s get to know him!
What is your name?
My name is Wilco. My mom and my princess Bella named me after the Chicago band Wilco. My brother Vaughanie and dad agreed. They wanted me to have a unique name. There is a disagreement about my middle name. Mom and dad say it’s Monet, but my siblings Bella and Vaughan think it’s Nemo. It doesn’t matter to me!
Please follow me on Facebook!! @wilcothetherapydog
What breed are you?
I am half Great Pyrenees and half Australian Shepherd. In my head I am 100% Pyr but my coloring says Aussie.
Tell me about being a Pyr.
The Great Pyrenees are those dogs that take goats up into the mountains in France on their own, with no human help. So, they are very independent. They are also guardians of their flocks. So, they like to watch everything. That is me to a T.
They also use “the Pyr Paw.” It’s how I communicate at home. It’s how I ask for more things…. like treats or pets or scratches. It’s also how I tell mom and dad that my siblings have left too many toys out or if there is a mess on the floor. I paw at it and roll my eyes. Yes, I tattle.
Were you a rescue?
I did get rescued by my family. There was overcrowding in the shelter I was surrendered to in Oklahoma. PAWS Chicago sent a van to help and I was put on it. Shortly after getting to PAWS, mom and dad found me! There was no story on me, only that I was an owner surrender. But I had been well taken care of and trained.
How old are you?
I am a 6-year-old puppy
How long have you been a therapy dog?
I started going on supervised visits in September 2017. I started classes that November and I got certified in February 2018.
What made you want to become a therapy dog?
Mom suggested it to me and I liked the idea. My mom has always had a thing for helping people. She wanted to share my sweet disposition, cute face, and loving and mild nature with people who need me. So she looked for therapy dog organizations and found MAST through a friend on Facebook.
How long did it take you to become certified?
I went to a 10-week class with some of my buddies. After 10 classes I was able to pass the test with no issue. We learned extra too, like how to ride in an elevator with 10 other dogs, and how to work in a pack. We never work alone.
What is your favorite part about being a therapy dog?
I love walking into a hospital and getting attention. I love trotting down the hallway knowing where I am and that I am about to see about 10 of my friends!
I love making people smile. I love getting pet. Especially the butt scratches. I also love riding the electronic beds in the rehab gyms and working with people to improve dexterity by getting makeovers with clips. I like working with people who are learning to walk again after surgery or those just needing a walk, I expertly walk them down the hallways of hospitals since I never pull on the leash.
What is the biggest surprise you’ve had while being a therapy dog?
How much I love my pack. I absolutely love walking with my friends Ariel, Finley, Dandy, Mason, Liberty, Pearl, Jachin, Molly and the rest. They are like family.
I also can’t believe how many treats we get from the office staff.
But the biggest surprise is how us dogs transform patients from being quiet and sad, to being happy and talkative.
What is your favorite toy?
I don’t play with toys. Much to the chagrin of my parents, because they bought me a ton when they adopted me! But that is the Great Pyrenees in me. I have no interest. But I do like wading in water, like lakes and rivers.
What is your favorite treat?
My favorite treats are bully sticks and smoked esophagus. Sounds gross, I know, but they’re the treat I pick out for myself EVERY SINGLE TIME my family takes me to Petco.
What is your favorite spot to be pet?
THE BUTT! My princess and my dad give me the most excellent butt scratches in the world.
I will also accept belly rubs.
Do you have any favorite music?
It just so happens that my all-time favorite music is by the band Wilco! They are Alternative rock, Indie rock, Alternative country-ish. I like listening to the Wilco Pandora station especially during thunderstorms, it drowns out the noise and it makes me relax.
What does a therapy dog do, in your own words?
A therapy dog goes to work at places that need a little more happiness on a day to day basis. This includes hospitals, schools, retirement homes, domestic violence shelters, etc. My job is to put smiles on faces, and get people talking. People ask all about me and mom answers for me. I hope to make people feel better after meeting me.
What type of dog makes a good candidate for therapy dog work?
I think any good-tempered, mild mannered dog has the chance to become a therapy dog. The dog should be friendly, calm, happy, and love butt scratches and car rides. (haha) They should like people of all kinds. And be especially tolerant of kids. AND they should LOVE working with other dogs.
What kind of training should a therapy dog get?
I think any training should start with basic obedience. After that, the 10-week class I went through at TOPS (where they train the police dogs), was a great class. I also think the supervised visits I could go on gave me a great understanding of being in the actual environment. So, a combo of all this is the training therapy dogs should get.
How much time do you spend being a therapy dog each month?
I try to volunteer 2 times a week, and even more when we have types of places I have never been before. I like adventures and meeting new people.
What is one suggestion you would make to someone considering becoming a therapy dog team?
Have the program director interview both the dog and handler before getting too involved. Make sure your dog likes other dogs, and that they have a calm disposition. And make sure your dog likes meeting people!
What can a therapy dog teach us about being good citizens?
Dogs have abilities that people don’t, but should. They are good listeners and keep secrets forever. They protect unconditionally. They have super-amazing-cuteness-powers. They make people talk without saying a word. Their smiles melt your heart and fill you with love. They don’t worry about the small stuff: having to keep a figure or manage their waistline or any of that garbage. They don’t fight about politics or care about celebrity. They find happiness where ever they are. They make friends easily. They are excellent judges of good and bad people. Maybe if humans could do all this, the world would be a better place.
What do you do in your time off?
Sleep. I think I sleep 20 hours a day. I am nocturnal. I patrol the house at night, and sleep during the day. I get up at about 3 pm each day. Then I snooze, laze around, and cuddle till about 6:30 pm- when I give my mom the “Feed me” eyeballs.
I go on 3 long walks a day, I like to go squirrel hunting and rabbit hunting. I love car rides.
I like going to dog parks, and I love wading in shallow water. I will not get my tail wet, so I hold it up high the entire time.
I love going Montrose Beach in Chicago.
Do you have any quirks?
Totally. Here are a few: being nocturnal, not barking unless there is real trouble (so I basically don’t bark), I LOVE people with grey hair, I love frozen yogurt and I eat it off a spoon—my family takes me to Menchies. I lay like a FROG when I am relaxing, my dad calls it Chicken-leg-butt. I do happy dances by grinding my face in the ground and flopping on my butt when my family comes home from their errands or work. Lastly, I am a snow dog. I go absolutely NUTS in the snow.
Any last comments?
Please volunteer with MAST. You don’t even need to have a dog, you can walk me when I am there, I am a good boy! Just ask Lavina. ?