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'Journey' works to become therapy dog for nonprofit

| Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A nonprofit organization based in Fayette County that grants wishes to adults with life-limiting illnesses has a new four-legged ambassador.

A golden doodle named Journey has joined Unity -- A Journey of Hope with big aspirations to be a pet therapy dog.

"Journey's role is to expand what Unity is able to do for our community," said John Robinson, cofounder of the organization.

A golden doodle is a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle. Journey was received as a donation for the purpose of training him to work locally with the public.

"A therapy dog is utilized as an adjunct to medicinal therapies. Therapy dogs, much like Unity -- A Journey of Hope, changes the focus off of a disease process and gives the patient time to forget about what ails them. Therapy dogs are unconditional love and there are so many benefits of therapy dogs like tactile stimulation. Petting a dog is proven to calm people and lower blood pressure," said Robinson.

Journey was born in January at Lawpdoodle Kennel in Lost Creek, W.Va. Tina Law is owner and professional breeder of standard poodles and doodles.

"We have donated to a number of canine charities, including an organization that trains service dogs. God has blessed us so much with our desire to be quality dog breeders, and we believe it is important to give back," said Law.

Moved by the mission of Unity and its desire for a therapy dog to join the family, Law said she knew a golden doodle would be the perfect candidate. She said the combination of the two breeds together produces one of the most popular and loving family dogs with non-shedding qualities, intelligence and even-temperament.

"I truly believe dogs are one of God's greatest gifts to man in the ability to help, heal and provide unconditional and non-judgmental love that our civilization lacks so much today. It has been scientifically documented that the love and compassion of a canine companion and other animal species of pets can help to heal people physically and mentally. I know they have helped me in so many ways," said Law.

Robinson and his wife Bobbi, cofounders of Unity, are the primary caretakers of Journey at their Vanderbilt home. While Journey is very calm, astute and a quick learner, John Robinson said he's always getting into something.

"He loves the bathroom and thinks the rolls of toilet paper and towels are his play toys. When he is out in the public he is the perfect puppy," said John Robinson.

"You can't look at him and not smile. He's beautiful and people just want to touch him," said Bobbi Robinson. "We were out last week and a man came over and said 'I just want to hug him.' I said 'hug all you want.' What happiness he brings."

The couple agreed on the name for the 55-pound eye-catching puppy.

"We named him Journey because every wish is a journey. Every life Unity changes is a journey. So what better name than Journey so we can change peoples' lives in area nursing homes, personal care homes and hospitals," said John Robinson.

Before Journey can begin the work of spreading joy to these public places, he must first take classes to become a pet therapy dog. He has graduated from beginning behavioral classes at Pet Smart in Uniontown and has yet to complete intermediate and advanced classes. Currently, he is attending Garrow Canine Training in Charleroi, operated by a certified police dog trainer.

"He has been to a couple of Unity's events and has been nothing but perfect. People cannot believe he is six-months old and so calm. So I believe his life ahead will be just another benefit Unity can offer. He does bring a smile to all. He is a magnet; everyone has to inquire his name, breed, size and age. He will give happiness and change the focus off of a disease process. He will make life a little more tolerable for people who are ill," said Robinson.

Journey will be making an appearance at an upcoming benefit walk the nonprofit is planning on Oct. 13. John Robinson said the organization is looking for vendors, including groomers, veterinarians and dog food distributors to get involved in Journey's Walk and Wag. The theme of the walk will be Nothing is im-PAWS-ible with Hope. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Those interested in volunteering to help this benefit for Unity can call 724-677-4789.

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