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LUKAS GOES ON THE ROAD WITH GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS You Can Count on the World’s Smartest Horse! Walnut, California – Lukas (http://www.playingwithlukas.com), the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), is currently being featured in the Guinness World Records “OMG! On the Road” series....

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Video du Jour: The world’s smartest horse? Meet Lukas, a 19-year-old off-the-track thoroughbred that the Guinness Book of World Records has declared “the smartest horse in the world.” Lukas is able to count, identify different numbers and shapes, spell his owners’ names, and perform various tricks. On June 16, 2010, he swept the Guinness record for “Most Numbers Identified By a Horse In One Minute”–he...

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Lukas and Louis Vuitton World’s Smartest Horse in Prestige Magazine News Flash – Paulick Report, Abundant Hope, Discover Horses, Good Relationships, Relaxed Horsemanship, That’s Really Wild, Equilink Times, Horsealacious, Just Equus, Equine Chronicle, Happy News, My Horse, Equine Welfare Alliance, Horse and Friends Radio Walnut, California – Lukas, the World’s Smartest Horse (according to...

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Lukas Has Plenty to Smile About World’s Smartest Horse Grabs a Guinness   Walnut, California --- Lukas (http://www.playingwithlukas.com), the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy) and Guinness World Record Holder (“Most numbers correctly identified by a horse in one minute: 19”), has been featured in Caters! Caters news is the United Kingdom’s leading independent photo...

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Dr. Wendel – Travels with a Therapy Dog – Meeting Mary

Category : Written Words

“I used to have dogs,” Mary tells me slowly, “before I got sick.” She is propped in bed on a pile of pillows, staring intently at my therapy dog, Wendel. Bob, her son, had called the agency where Wendel and I do hospice volunteering, “My mom’s health has gone downhill, is there someone with a pet who could visit her?” According to Bob, Mary had been diagnosed with terminal cancer several months ago. Although Mary had full-time caretakers, her two dogs had been given away as she was no longer able to care for them, and Bob’s busy job as an advertising executive prevented him from looking after them. As a nurse for the last twenty-five years, I recognized the ashen color and gaunt features of a patient who was coming to the end of her life. Hospice work entails a deep respect for the dying person’s wishes and honors their experiences and life. As I stood at Mary’s bedside waiting for her next move, it occurred to me that to be without animals after a lifetime of their love had to be the one of the most painful part of letting go of our lives.

For this visit, as with all of our encounters, Wendel is dressed in a costume and armed with a full repertoire of tricks. Part of our purpose is bringing smiles to those who welcome a respite from their pain and sorrow, and Wendel is trick-trained in addition to his pet therapy certification. Mary is quiet, as if carefully considering this new turn of events, perhaps weighing the costs – one more painful good-bye? Wendel waits too, after five-hundred hours of volunteer service he’s practiced at reading his patients and waiting for my signals. I watch as Mary’s face softens and a smile spreads across her face, the moment has come. I nod to Wendel and he greets Mary with his signature wave. She pats the bed and I lift Wendel to her side.

During the next two months, I find out that Mary eloped, had two sons, one of whom had died in a car accident, wished that she had gone to college, and loved Elvis with all her heart.

 Our twenty minute visits stretched to leisurely afternoons including board games, helping her with correspondence, and listening to her tales of corn fields, the Great Depression and her first television set. Wendel was always close and entertained Mary with his antics until a rest for her was indicated. Her condition stabilized for a time, but the signs returned. Mary’s breathing was becoming labored, her appetite had all but   disappeared, and our visits had become quieter, more of a peaceful acknowledgement   of each other’s presence. As I gathered my things one day to go, Mary whispered   “Do you have to leave so soon?” She began gulping air and her body shook with a spasm.

            I paged Bob and the Hospice Chaplain, and as we waited for her last breath, Mary’s hand rested on Wendel’s head. Bob called weeks later to thank us and share a note he’d found in his mother’s belongings, “I love you always Wendel, thank you for being my friend. Bless you, Karen, for bringing him to me and for your caring.”

Written by Karen Murdock, January 2011

http://www.playingwithlukas.com

Dr. Wendel – Travels with a Therapy Dog – Meeting Ellie

Category : Written Words

          “Where’s Wendel?” asks Ellie as she enters the Adult Day Care Center where I work as a psychiatric nurse. The morning stream of over one hundred patients is arriving for a day of groups and socialization. “This way, please, Ellie” as I direct her out of the main hallway. She is eighty-two years old, walks with a cane and her memory is fading. Lately, she has trouble remembering where the restrooms are and the names of other patients that she has known for years. “There you are, my little angel!” she exclaims when she sees my therapy dog, Wendel.

            Dr. Wendel – his nickname since he’s earned advanced degrees in the elderly and psychology with over five-hundred volunteer hours – and Ellie snuggle like long lost friends. The joy on Ellie’s face is unmistakable, “I missed you so, my little darling!” Wendel revels in the attention. I notice that Ellie has mismatched her clothes and is even wearing the same blouse from the day before. I make a mental note to call her daughter, Sarah. “Have you eaten breakfast yet, Ellie?” I ask her. A moment of confusion crosses her face and she replies, “I don’t think so, is there a doughnut left?”

            Later, privately on the phone with Sarah, I find out that Ellie has becoming increasingly disoriented, forgets to take her medicine and wanders the house at night. “What am I going to do with her?” asks Sarah, “I have to work to support my family – she needs someone with her all the time.” During the next two months, many phone calls ensue and the Social Worker is brought in to assist Sarah with Ellie’s placement arrangements at the family’s insistence.

            “I know I’m a burden on my family,” Ellie says sadly, “I understand that I’m better off at a nursing home, but I’ll miss Wendel.” I’m watching as Ellie sits with Wendel – he’s in his customary spot on my desk watching her as she dabs the tears. I decide to call Sarah once more, this time to plan a surprise. I find out that Ellie’s new residence is only five miles from my home. Not only does Wendel welcome Ellie to her new room, he visits her almost every Saturday morning, always with a doughnut, for the next year and a half until her quiet passing.    

Written by Karen Murdock

http://www.playingwithlukas.com

Dr Wendel: Travels With a Therapy Dog – Meeting Charlie

Category : Written Words

The hulking male patient towering in front of me would cause fear in most people, with his over six feet five-inch frame splattered in tattoos. “I’ll watch Wendel for you, Miss Karen,” he said simply.

“Yes, thank you, Charlie.” As a psychiatric nurse for the last twenty-five years, I was currently working at an Adult Day Care Health Center. The program hosted patients from five counties and those attending were deemed to be at imminent risk of in-patient hospitalization. Their only common bond was a low-income, depleted resources and chronic issues, both physical and mental.

Over one hundred patients a day were transported to an old renovated movie theatre to socialize, attend groups and receive physical and occupational therapy. Ages ranged from eighteen (the minimum) up to ninety-two. Youngsters like twenty-one year old Charlie usually had some developmental delays with a criminal background, often compounded with a history of drug abuse. Our job at the Center was to monitor medication compliance, assess and enhance social support systems, maintain physical status and assist with the multiple problems that arise during lives with less than optimal circumstances.

Charlie had come into our program a month earlier, a rather typical case: angry and troubled from a poor family, having served some jail time, few prospects in sight with little education and less motivation. He had no interest in the compulsory program (a requirement at most Board and Care homes to prevent troublesome mischief by residents), tested rules and preferred playing pool over any groups. It had gotten to the point that the Treatment Team convened to discuss discharging Charlie for non-participation.

However, one of my passions is training animals, and I had arranged with my supervisor to start bringing my Spaniel, Wendel, with me to work in order for him to earn hours toward advanced degrees. This was enough to get Charlie`s attention, an animal lover at heart; he decided to become Wendel’s overseer on the spot. Our unspoken understanding was that participation in the program meant more Wendel time for Charlie. But more than that was Charlie`s realization of consequences for his behavior and appreciation of gentle and calm actions. Wendel gave immediate feedback related to quick and hasty movements, and was helping Charlie to interpret his mannerisms and correct his casual and inconsiderate habits.

One day in particular was an example of this. Charlie stormed into the Center, a conflict over seating on the bus had left him fuming. He rushed up to Wendel who would have nothing to do with him in such a state. Wendel merely turned his head away from Charlie to inform him that his inappropriate emotions were not welcomed. The flash of understanding across Charlie’s face was immediate. We watched in amazement and relief as Charlie counted out loud, as part of his “Wendel lessons,” “One, two, three,” and intentionally slowed his breathing. At once, Wendel allowed himself to be petted by Charlie.

There were many more lessons for Charlie and Wendel during the next year. Charlie was able to graduate from the program, obtain his GED and work part-time. Occasionally, we would get cards from him addressed to Dr. Wendel, who during this time also earned his degrees in psychology and the elderly, and who would go on to teach many more lessons.

Copyright 2011 Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse, who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. Owner of PlayingWithLukas.com. She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance as well as build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit the horses.