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Nursing home residents help dogs prepare for competition
Date published: 9/25/2009
Kota Garbee isn't known for being the bravest of dogs.
The Finnish Spitz mix is terrified of the vacuum cleaner. He's skittish about crossing the power cord that runs along the floor from the computer to the outlet.
And he has occasionally felt threatened by a canvas bag in the Garbee home that holds piano music books.
But on Saturday, the honey-colored 3-year-old trotted alongside a motorized wheelchair without a care in the world.
"Now see, he's not paying a bit of attention to that chair," said Sue Coleman, head of the Fancy's Friends 4-H Dog Club in King George.
Kota is a member of the group, along with his owner, 12-year-old Renn Garbee, who's been training the dog since he was a puppy.
The club's members will compete at the 4-H State Dog Show at the State Fair in Caroline County tomorrow in obedience, showmanship and agility events.
One of their colleagues, 16-year-old Caroline Elgin of the Fauquier 4-H Puppy Pals, uses a motorized wheelchair.
So to make sure their dogs wouldn't act up--or run scared--while in the ring, several members of the King George 4-H group brought their dogs to Heritage Hall nursing home last weekend, where two residents in motorized wheelchairs volunteered to roll alongside the dogs while they went through their routines.
The dogs seemed less interested in the chairs than in licking the hands of the men using them, Heritage Hall residents Ronnie Sorrell and Billy Moore.
"It was a really nice experience," said Moore, a retired physicist who earned his fair share of nuzzles. "I like dogs and generally to be around them. They're difficult to take care of, but worth the effort, I think."
That the animals barely seemed to notice the wheelchairs speaks volumes about the accepting nature of dogs, said Carina Elgin, Caroline's mother.
Caroline, who has cerebral palsy, adopted Sajen five years ago from Canine Companions for Independence , an organization that provides assistance dogs to people with physical disabilities.
A golden retriever-Labrador mix, Sajen can open and shut doors, turn on and off lights and even pull Caroline's socks off, said her mother.