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Therapy dog passes first test

Staff writer

It’s an odd circumstance when young children are paired with an 80-pound dog and the dog is the nervous party.

Bella, a French Mastiff, recently passed international therapy dog certification. While Bella’s owner, Terry Pierce of Hillsboro, waits for the actual certification to arrive, she decided to give her dog an early assignment — listen contently as four Hillsboro children read books Monday at Hillsboro library.

Elias Kalua, Ellie Just, Reese Hefley, and Macy Priest won a drawing to read to Bella. They had no reservations about approaching Bella or reading to the large dog.

“If we would have said, ‘read with a librarian,’ that would not have gone over as quickly, but reading with a dog they’re not as intimidated,” Hillsboro library director Cathy Fish said. “Dogs don’t care if you stumble over words.”

Bella is one of two therapy dogs Pierce is training and the French Mastiff has a tendency to be timid. Pierce said Bella senses when her owner has had a tough day at work. She withdraws from Pierce until her owner works off her negative energy.

Bella was antsy at the beginning of the reading session, and momentarily chewed on her leash — a sign of nervousness, according to Pierce. However, the therapy dog quickly settled down, laying on the floor with her tongue extended beyond her lips, which is the way she sleeps.

Pierce believes that Bella will have a connection with sick children because the French Mastiff suffers from kidney disease, a condition which makes her small for her breed — 80 pounds instead of 100.

“It motivated me to do training,” Pierce said of Bella’s illness. “I wanted to do something with sick kids.”

Last modified June 30, 2011

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