Welcome to DAY TWO!! I’m so excited to share this interview with Kassie, where she shares her story of training a therapy dog.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your therapy dog in training?
Hey y’all! I’m Kassie Angle; I’m an 18-year-old homeschool graduate, an indie author, oldest sister, and Army girl to the core! Thunder is a purebred AKC golden retriever we bought off Craigslist from a family who lived in Mexico. He turns 2 in September and he’s big!!
2. What led you to train a therapy dog?
Growing up in the Army I’ve been around a lot of wounded soldiers and their service dogs, and I always thought it would be amazing to train a service dog…but I was never really keen on giving it up afterwards. Coming back from overseas we wanted to get a golden retriever after my mom fell in love with them on Pinterest, and researching them I discovered that they’re a working breed that does best with a job to do. The week before we flew home I borrowed a book on working dogs from the library and fell hard and fast for the idea of having a therapy dog. A month later I found Thunder on Craigslist and the rest is history!
3. Thunder is a Golden Retriever, correct? Do you think this gave him an advantage in his training?
I tend to think it does, but I may be slightly biased! Retrievers are extremely intuitive without the aggressive streak some intuitive dogs have, and they just want to please their owners. When Thunder figures out what I want him to do, it’s like a light bulb comes on, and he wants nothing more than to do it. Not that he’s not stubborn sometimes—he’s just easy to train. And his sense of who needs “pets” blows my mind sometimes. If I respect that and act on it, he’ll keep telling me. I’ve never had a dog like that before, and I’ve also never had a golden retriever before.
4. What are your plans when it comes to Thunder’s career as a therapy dog?
My plan is to mostly take him to visit hospitals, since I have a huge soft spot for all things medical. Exactly what that’ll entail is really dependent on where we live and what hospitals have a therapy dog program. My all-time dream is to take him to military hospitals and visit wounded soldiers, but we’ll see how hard that is to do.
5. Can you describe some of his training – what has gone into it, and where he is at now?
Therapy dogs don’t have to learn any specific tasks—just basic manners and people skills. He just has to be quick on the draw with the “normal” dog commands and know exactly how to act around strangers and other dogs. So basically, it’s a lot of long walks with impromptu training sessions and trips to pet-friendly stores. And getting over fears of things like automatic doors and scooter-wheelchairs. I also added in a few things that aren’t necessary but are fun and helpful—sitting for pet and knowing directions like left, right, and turn around.
We took the evaluation once when he was barely a year old, and he was simply far too puppyish to pass. Since then we’ve worked on his problem spots and plan to retake it slightly further down the road when he’s just more grown up.
6. BONUS QUESTION: Do you feel therapy dogs are an important contribution, and do you hope to continue this endeavor with other dogs in the future?
I absolutely think that therapy dogs have an amazing place in helping people. I’m a very firm believer in the ways God uses dogs to make a difference in people. Dogs can reach through to people when other people can’t—and sometimes that’s a very needed thing. As far as other dogs go…honestly, probably not. I’m going to focus on working with Thunder while I have free time between high school and the rest of my life, if that makes sense, but I probably won’t commit myself to another dog. We’ll see what happens, though! Our family has a way of unexpectedly falling in love with dogs that need homes and if one came along with the right personality… 😁
Thanks SO much, Kassie! Best of luck with Thunder. I think he’s going to impact a lot of people in wonderful ways. ❤
Speaking of Thunder, how would y’all like to see a picture of him?
Stay tuned for a second Q&A post later today! Take a look at the schedule in case you missed yesterday’s interview . . .
DAY ONE – July 15 – Introduction / Q&A with Alicia Picon
DAY TWO – July 16 – Q&A with Abby Rose / Q&A with Kassie Angle
DAY THREE – July 17 – Guest Post from Pearl Willis / Spotlight Post on soldiergirlstories.com
July 18 – That’s A Wrap on aneedtobreathe.com (The Why Behind the Blog Tour and a BIG Thank You!)