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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 Joey

Category : Written Words

            The boy sitting in front of me is fifty-seven years old. By all appearances Joey is a full-grown adult – patchy stubble after a hurried morning shave, size twelve shoes and graying temples. He rocks back and forth in his chair and averts his eyes at all times. Joey is being admitted into the Adult Day Care Center where I work as a registered nurse. The program is designed to offer a wide variety of low income patients the opportunity to socialize, attend groups, and receive assistance with occupational and physical therapy needs.

            The questions I ask Joey are not answered – according to the board and care operator where he lives, Joey is mute. Nor does Joey interact with others, allow himself to be touched or make eye contact. Joey grew up in a state institution and was then placed in various residences over the years. The arrangements at his board and care home require attendance in the Day Care program by the residents to maintain functioning and activity levels. Although Joey can hear me, he does not respond – according to his chart he has autism.

            During twenty-six years as a psychiatric nurse, I have encountered many patients with a variety of illnesses. Autism, a complicated disorder, presents a unique challenge in reaching a mind far removed. I glance down at Wendel, my therapy dog, who regularly accompanies me to work, and I inform him “This is a job for the Dr.” Dr. Wendel, as he’s commonly called by all of his friends, has over five-hundred hours of volunteer service and is by now a certified professional. I lift him onto my lap and inch closer to Joey.

            Joey continues to rock back and forth in his chair and this gives me an idea. Our chair rolls right in front of Joey’s forward motion. The good doctor has an additional edge: the longest, silkiest ears ever given to a creature. As Joey bends forward, I brush his forehead lightly with a feather wisp of ear hair.

Startled, Joey pulls back and looks shyly at our little facilitator. Joey slowly lowers himself again and again toward the ear caress, and with each subsequent rock forward stays a bit longer.

            Over many visits, I’m able to place the Dr. on the desk next to Joey and he learns that he’s able to rest his hand on Wendel as long as he’s not rocking. From this, we advance to lessons in some brief eye contact. Our breakthrough came one day when Wendel went to turn around and a paw came too close to the edge of the desk. A slip and Joey and I both reached for Wendel at the same time – our hands were touching and Joey looked directly at me, nodded and returned the Dr. back onto his office.

            The last time I saw Joey, he was sitting at the group table working on puzzles. He had allowed himself to be seated father from Wendel as long as an ear caress was still available occasionally. He seemed to understand that the good doctor had more patients to see and welcome to his practice.

Written by Karen Murdock, January 2011

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.

DR WENDEL – Travels With a Therapy Dog

Category : Written Words

You don’t want him,” the young salesgirl told me, as she tried to direct me to away from the little spaniel to a cage filled with rambunctious, yapping puppies. “Look at these Yorkies, now there’s a dog for you!” Our beloved Schnauzer had died months before, and to ease our mourning, my husband and I had taken to dropping by the local pet store occasionally to watch the frolicking litters and mingle with other animal lovers. “He’s sick and sad; he doesn’t act like the other dogs,” the disappointed salesgirl added. After being shipped from Nebraska to California by himself, the little guy had become ill in transit, she told me. “We’ll probably have to send him back, but I don’t think he’ll make it.” I kept looking at a tri-colored Cavalier King Charles with the biggest, thoughtful eyes I’d ever seen. I didn’t budge; “I’d like to hold him,” I told her.

And in the five years that we’ve had him since, Wendel, as he came to be called, has barely left my arms. He lost his sickliness but kept his pensive nature while showing an extraordinary ability to connect with people. As a horse trick trainer for the last thirty years, I started using the same techniques to train Wendel. We progressed from basic commands like sit and stay to advanced lessons, while minimizing cues and eliminating voice prompts. My career as a psychiatric nurse prompted me to share Wendel’s amazing personality with those less fortunate, and we began a program designed to qualify him for recognition as a therapy dog.

My system includes a combination of Shaping, clicker training and positive reinforcement. I’ve trained my horse Lukas, an ex-racer and former rescue, to be the World’s Smartest Horse (according to the World Records Academy). Lukas has also earned approval through Guinness of a World Record (Most numbers identified by a horse in one minute: 19). I was certain that these techniques could also apply to Wendel as well. After careful investigation, I located a reputable, charitable group with a mission to promote companionship between pets and people.

After joining, I requested the Control Evaluation form to begin our test preparation. According to the instructions, an unbiased licensed and approved trainer or behaviorist would need to evaluate Wendel and provide written attestation of completion of all of the following steps:

  • Is the pet able to do a sit, lie down, heel with people close by, come when called while on a leash and do a two-minute down or sit/stay with the owner holding the leash?
  • Is the pet able to sit for petting and allow its head, ears, feet and tail to be touched?
  • Is the pet clean and well groomed?
  • Is mouthing, biting, dodging or aggression apparent?
  • Is the pet under control with people around?
  • Is the pet sound sensitive?
  • Is the pet able to maintain composure when a stranger approaches in an erratic manner?
  • Does the pet show signs of fear or shyness?
  • Does the pet appear to have any training difficulties or behavior problems that might interfere with its ability to work as a therapy pet?
  • Would you like this pet to visit you or a relative of yours?

Our evaluator arrived two months later with an assortment of props and even a big brown lab “to test Wendel’s mettle.” An unfamiliar location, a rattling wheelchair, a barking brown stranger and more were no match for Wendel; our test was over and he had passed with flying colors.

Wendel has since gone on to advanced degrees in Psychology and the Elderly, with over five-hundred hours of selfless service with some tricks thrown in for extra smiles.

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.