GREENVILLE — Government bodies are often accused of “going to the dogs.” However, at Greenville City Council’s Tuesday night meeting, the dogs came to them, to be honored for their efforts making better the lives of many area citizens.
Greenville Mayor Steve Willman presented a certificate of commendation from the city to Mike and Susan Brown and their therapy dogs John Coffey and Harley. Fellow pups in training, Brittany and Mya, were also on hand to meet council.
On November 7, John Coffey and Harley earned the highest national title awarded by the American Kennel Club to Therapy Dogs called the Therapy Dog Distinguished title. The two have received the designation after completing 400 visits to dozens of facilities in the Greenville area.
The best part? These visits are done free of charge.
Mike says John and Harley touch the hearts and lives of so many people with daily visits in both group and one-on-one settings at assisted living facilities, Alzheimer’s/Dementia facilities, hospice patients and their family members, nursing homes, The Care Center at Wayne Health Care, and several anonymous drug and alcohol outreach programs thought out the community as well.
“Some of those we visit love to take one of them for a short walk, others enjoy playing a game of fetch, while others get a huge laugh watching John play with plastic water bottles,” he said. “But the most smiles come from those who just love petting them or holding one of the boys close to them during one of our visits. They bring so much peace and joy to so many people in their time of need.”
John is a five-year-old black standard poodle. Mike explained how John’s life started out as a very sheltered and abused dog.
“He had not been exposed to very much of the world due to the fact he was raised in a horse stall for the first three and a half years of his life. He had not been around very many people, he would not eat or drink out of dog dishes, he never road in a car, never been in a house, he was scared of any sounds and/or quick movements of any kind, he was really a mess.”
John’s life changed dramatically January 2, 2015, when Mike took ownership of him.
“It just broke my heart to see what had happened to this beautiful dog, why would someone treat him like that?” he said. “I knew he was a special dog from the start; all he needed was a lot of love and attention, so he could show everyone else out there just how special he really was.”
After completing several obedience classes at a local dog club and under the guidance of dog Trainer/Instructor Sue Young, John was set up for his first Therapy Dog evaluation on July 11, 2017, in Moraine, Ohio, and passed with a perfect score.
Today, John is an American Kennel Club (AKC) and Therapy Dog International (TDI) Certified Therapy Dog. He also holds seven National Titles including Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) and seven Certificates in Obedience, Rally and Agility.
“John has come a long way in the one year and 11 months we have been together, and I am so proud of him,” said Mike.
Harley is a 10-and-a-half-year-old apricot miniature poodle that is a Certified and Registered Working Service Dog (Seizures/Respiratory Assist).
Mike calls Harley “a real miracle dog.”
“On April 21, 2007, I answered an ad in the local newspaper advertising a male apricot poodle puppy for sale,” he said. “After arriving at the location, I found this little tiny lifeless puppy in a box with a picture frame covering the box and a can of stew holding it down. He was not moving he couldn’t stand. I thought he was dead. I took him outside to get a better look at him; even my wife said he is dead.”
“After a closer look we discovered he was covered with fleas and barely breathing. I told my wife he might die, but I was not going to allow that little puppy to die in that box.”
“After a brief discussion about the condition of this puppy with the lady who had him she took my offer for this puppy instead of dealing with the local sheriff and humane society.”
Mike said they called their vet on their way back to town and explained his condition.
“Once the vet looked him over, he said it doesn’t look good and he probably will not make it because he is being eaten alive by all the fleas and has lost too much blood. He went on to explain maybe giving him some blood and other medications might save him, but it didn’t look promising at all. He said the second problem is that he is only four to six weeks old and is very weak. I said ‘Let’s do whatever we can for this little guy.’ It took more than four hours to hand pick all fleas off the little guy and treat him.”
“After staying up with him for three days treating him, and trying to feed him, and holding him to keep him warm, a real miracle happened — he tried to stand on his own,” said Mike. “The next day he stood up for the first time, even the vet said it’s a miracle he is still alive.”
As the days and weeks went by Harley continued to get stronger every day, and Mike and Susan felt a relief to see this little guy running around and playing.
Once the vet gave Harley a clean bill of health, the Browns started obedience training.
Harley earned his first obedience certificate in 2008 and started his Service Dog training that same year. Most of Harley’s training took place in Cleveland, Ohio, where he completed his Service Dog training as a Seizure/Respiratory Assist Service Dog in 2011.
“Harley loves going out on all the visits we go on, he loves the people and loves giving comfort wherever and whenever it is needed,” said Mike. “He knows his way around every facility we visit and knows right where to go at each stop; he even knows what room’s people are in that receive one on one visits.”
In addition to all his Service Dog Certifications, Harley holds one National Title Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) and one Certificate in Obedience.
Harley plays a big role in helping John with his training in becoming a Seizure/Respiratory Assist Service Dog.
On December 12, John and Harley will return to Moraine, Ohio, to be evaluated together as a Service dog and Therapy dog team with Therapy Dog International (TDI) in hopes of earning the highest National Therapy Dog Title awarded by Therapy Dog International (TDI), this title requires 500 visits.
So if you see John and Harley out and about take a minute to stop and pet them and say thank you for the service they are giving to our community. For information on Therapy Dog visits or training, contact Mike Brown at 937-564-2362.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com