Written by Megan Durant
Professional photography by Des Featherstone
From throw-away to therapy dog in two years
When Megan Durant adopted an unwanted scruffy little black-and-white dog from an animal shelter, no one could have guessed that he was going to have an important job to do. Little Ace’s gentle, calm nature captured not only her heart but that of everyone else he meets. It is this special personality that has helped many a scared rescue dog calm down and made him the perfect choice to become a therapy dog…
Love at first sight
Our story begins in March 2014 when I spotted a photo of an utterly adorable little black-and-white poodle-terrier kind of dog on the Animal Welfare Society Phillipi’s website. He was a very different choice of dog for me as I grew up with Staffies, Boxers, and other power breeds. But I just could not choose another – this little black-and-white scruffy was the one.
Two weeks later, the home check was done and he was vaccinated, sterilised and microchipped and ready to come home with me. When they placed this excited little ball of black-and-white fluff in my lap, it was love at first sight – I received kisses all over. I signed the papers, paid his adoption fee, and off we went.
Since then, we’ve been together almost 24/7 for four years. Ace comes to work with me every day and has done over 83 ride-a-longs for Sighthound Rescue SA. His very first trip was all the way from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn and we’ve also done one to Beaufort West. Since then the two of us have undertaken airport trips, foster home trips and forever home trips. He even came third in the SPCA Mutt of the Year award.
In January 2016, Ace became an official therapy dog.
The perfect pooch
Ace has a really calm demeanour and is a sociable guy who loves his Sunday beach runs (with ice cream after his walk), going to markets, and meeting friends for coffee. He’s great with people and animals alike.
He’s the most amazing little kind soul and somehow gets the nervous hounds we collect calm and shows them the ropes. It’s like in some way or another he says to the dogs we are collecting: “Hey buddy! Come with these humans – they’re good and loving people and will not hurt or harm you. I will show you how to get into the car and will share the treats that I have. I will give you your space if you don’t want me to sleep on the back seat with you, that’s fine I know you don’t know what lies ahead, I will just hop on to my human’s lap in the front. But know this: I will check on you every now and then to see how you are doing and, when we stop for a pee and water break, I will play with you if you so wish and show you all over again how to get into the car”.
When my dad was in frail care, I snuck Ace in to go and say hello to grandpa; I noticed that he was calm when we entered and said hello to all the other old folk who were there. It was then that I realised that he may be the perfect therapy dog.
We contacted Pets As Therapy (PAT) and, on the 23rd of January, we passed our assessment with flying colours. So now, every Wednesday morning, we put on his special bright yellow PAT bandana, pack the treats, and head to the old age home to go and share some love.
I’m so proud of Ace and what he has achieved. He has gone from being a shelter dog to a therapy dog in no time. People often think that all dogs in shelters are “broken”, but Ace is a perfect case in point to show that there are fantastic dogs in shelters just waiting to be adopted.
To find out more about Pets As Therapy, visit their website at www.pat.org.za