A New Leash on Life, Inc. was founded to improve people’s lives by utilizing the special abilities of dogs. New Leash trains Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities; Therapy Dogs to cheer the elderly and motivate children learning to read or in therapy; and Companion Dogs for adoption from unwanted shelter dogs through an inmate training program at a local correctional facility.

Davin and Boyd

Seven-year-old Davin Stogsdill-Mercer of Ringling, OK, is the human that belongs to a yellow Labrador Retriever named Boyd. Boyd is named after Oklahoma actor William Boyd who became the famous movie character of ‘Hop Along Cassidy”.

Davin can’t sit up or hold his head up due to cerebral palsy. But, according to his mom Misty, Davin’s life is now much happier because of his new best friend and constant canine companion. “Boyd loves on Davin all the time and causes the rest of the children to interact more with Davin as they all play on the floor together.”

Davin’s physicial therapist also said that Boyd motivates Davin try to use his arms and body in ways nothing else can. Most of us take for granted being able to pet a dog. For Davin, it’s a huge effort and the best reward possible.

Some dogs that were raised for an Assistance Dog are better suited for Therapy Dogs. These dogs are placed as “special needs” dogs with people with severe disabilities.

The dog is a companion and therapists use the dog to encourage and motivate patients to try new and difficult activities with the dog as their reward. These dogs go to therapy sessions and the family receives the same training support as the Assistance Dogs.

Joslyn and Parker

Eight-year old Joslyn Burch of Cache has a rare genetic disorder that affects the central nervous system and causes her to walk erratically and fall frequently. She also has a hearing loss. Her Assistance Dog, Parker, is named after Quanah Parker, the famous last chief and statesman of the Comanche Indians.

Trena Burch, Joslyn’s mother, said that Parker seems to instinctively know what Joslyn needs and constantly looks out for her. “One day at school, there was spilled milk in the hall. Parker wouldn’t let Joslyn walk in it. “People are amazed by his intuition… and always being there with a watchful eye.”

Parker has also opened a whole new social world for Joslyn. “Now instead of avoiding her because of her disabilities, other children are drawn to her because of her cool dog,” Trena said.

Men and Therapy Dogs

What are ranch dogs and their male owners doing in class at Seminole State College? We began our Therapy Dog class at the college this week with a full class and most of them are men; an unusual situation.

One of the students is a long-time cowboy and his dog, Kickapoo, a one year old German Shepherd Dog. They live on a ranch and do not come into town very often so attending the Therapy Dog class is Kickapoo’s first experience with being around so many people. Kickapoo stayed right by his owner’s side and appeared very comfortable being petted everyone in the class; an important skill needed for a good Therapy Dog. At eighty- eight years old Kickapoo’s owner wants him to become a certified Therapy Dog so he can take him when he visits his friends in the nursing home. He said most of his friends have lived their lives around animals and he is sure visits from Kickapoo will be good for their spirits. We know meeting this man and his dog was good for our spirits.


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