Kids find comfort in four-legged dental assistants

Columbia River Pet Partners therapy animal teams regularly visit schools, libraries, businesses, assisted-living homes, hospitals and hospices. But one handler and her two Tibetan Spaniels are doign something unique. Cathy Tramaglini, along with her dogs Kyi and Tia, visit pediatric dental offices to help young patients through “scary” procedures.

Since 2010, Kyi and Tia have been easing the fears of children at Adventure Dental and DeLuna Kids Dental in Vancouver, and Dr. Pike Dentistry for Children in Portland. The doctors want a visit to their office to be as positive an experience as possible, and so sometimes the work begins in the waiting room. But the real action takes place in the dental chair.

Fear leads to stress, and stress leads to increased heart rate and overproduction of stress hormones. That leads to a squirming child, making dental procedures a challenge. But as a child gently strokes a warm dog lying still upon them, the symptoms of stress melt away to the power of the human-animal bond.

“When Kyi and Tia sense fear or tension returning, they often crawl a bit farther up on the child’s chest, reinforcing their presence and its soothing effect,” Cathy said.

Dental staff and parents alike appreciate the way Cathy and her dogs are able to calm fears and keep children still in the dental chair. But their greatest achievement is that they make it possible to treat children in the dentist’s office who would otherwise be so frightened that they would have to undergo general anesthesia in a hospital to get their dental work done.

Cathy’s work in pediatric dental offices has been such a hit that some parents schedule their children’s visits when they know Kyi and Tia are available. The teams visit Dr. DeLuna’s office every week and the other two offices twice a month each.

Cathy and her dogs started their dental visits when Dr. Pike contacted Pet Partners asking for a team. His previous dental assistant had brought her dog in regularly, and when she moved away, the young patients missed having a dog in the office. It turned out that Cathy’s small dogs were ideal because they can cuddle with children during procedures.

Cathy and her dogs are among some 170 active Columbia River Pet Partners teams who are touching lives and improving health throughout the greater Portland area. For information visit

~ Peter Christensen

Saving lives two at a time

Canine expert Janice Wolfe and her dog Wyatt are saving two lives at a time with a program called Merlin’s Kids, and invite others to help.

Merlin’s Kids transforms dogs’ lives by rescuing them from shelters, training them, and giving them a meaningful life purpose: to be service dogs for kids with special needs, veterans suffering from PTSD, and victims of domestic violence.

In essence, Wolfe says, the dogs save the kids and the kids save the dogs — a match made in heaven. Learn more at

Cisco Kid is a friend to many

Cisco And Christy Harkins

Cisco And Christy Harkins

American Paint Horse Cisco Kid recently celebrated his 32nd birthday — the equivalent of almost 99 human years. But this spirited “youngster” at Son Rise Ranch in Vancouver, WA is still going strong, and still making a difference in the lives of local youth.

Son Rise Ranch Director Pamila Cronkhite says, “We have tried to retire him twice but found he became depressed. So into the beginner lesson pool he went at age 24 to keep him lightly active.”

Cronkhite founded the ranch as a way to help troubled youth through horsemanship. Thirteen other horses reside at the ranch, assisting kids in building self-worth and respect, managing emotions, improving communication skills, and setting goals.

Cisco Kid prepares novices, giving them confidence to handle other horses. “I think his longevity is due to his continual use, and also because the kids’ hearts are so wrapped up in him,” says Cronkhite.

To learn more about Son Rise Ranch or Cisco Kid and friends, visit

Bobbie the Wonder Dog

Bobbie the Wonder Dog  

Written by Tricia Brown, illustrated by Cary Porter 

The story of Bobbie, who hailed from Silverton, Oregon in the ‘20s, has been told and retold countless times. In family homes, newspapers, books and more.

While the story is true, it only feels right to begin: Once upon a time . . .

There was a puppy named Bobbie, who at six weeks of age was selected by Frank and Elizabeth Brazier of Silverton to become part of their family and working farm. The Scotch Collie with the bobbed tail (hence his name), was a natural “heeler,” herding cows, horses, and even cats and people.

In his first months of life he was “hurt on the job”— first by a horse who didn’t appreciate Bobbie’s efforts, and then by a tractor, which accidentally ran over his leg. As was his nature, he healed quickly and returned to work straightaway.

In time the family decided to sell the farm and open a restaurant in town. They sold Bobbie to the new owners, thinking Bobbie would be happiest remaining on the farm. They learned differently though, when Bobbie showed up at the restaurant soon after.

At first agreeing to an arrangement where Bobbie spent weekdays at the farm and weekends in town, Bobbie soon made it known that he preferred his original family. They bought him back — for three times what they’d sold him for.

In August 1923, the family embarked on a cross-country vacation to visit family. Not wanting to reveal all here, suffice it to say that while Frank refueled in Indiana, Bobbie was chased by a pack of wild dogs. The family looked and lingered, placed an ad in the paper, but eventually had to return home without their beloved pet.

The family was heartbroken, but picked up their lives, as people must. Then, on February 15, exactly six months after becoming lost, Bobbie limped into downtown Silverton, to the shock, amazement and immeasurable joy of his family.

 The story spread, in town, throughout Oregon, and finally across the country. Letters to the family arrived, piecing together Bobbie’s incredible journey. Letter writers talked of trying to keep him, many saying he would accept a meal or a night’s stay, but would always move on.

The recurring line in this sweetly written and illustrated book will always ring true: Bobbie was unstoppable.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog — recommended for readers 4-8 years but a joy for readers of any age — is available wherever books are sold (Alaska Northwest Books, Graphic Arts Books, Westwinds Press). The book launched at the annual Silverton Oregon “Bobbie” Pet Parade in May.

Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her 4-pack, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.

Read to the Dogs program turns 1

Dogs are the best listeners — especially for young readers who need to build confidence. The Portland-area area Canine Therapy Team’s Read to the Dogs program, which originally kicked off at Riverdale Grade School, celebrated its first year in March. The program, in which dogs lend a friendly, patient ear while students read to them, is a hit with kids and faculty alike. Principal Joanna Tobin credits the dogs with helping students "feel comfortable and set aside any anxiety or worries they may have about their reading proficiency.”

Rescue dog teaches environmental awareness

Working to raise environmental awareness in K-5 students, the TurfMutt company has developed teaching materials in which the leading character, rescue dog Lucky, “paws it forward” by fighting environmental villains with the help of his friends, “The Outdoor Powers.”  

The company is also hosting an essay contest, “Be a Backyard Superhero,” giving students a chance to apply what they’re learning from Lucky and friends to real life, plus an chance to win a $5,000 grant for a “green space makeover” at their school. Learn more at for rules and entry information.

Teen actor starts fast-growing animal rescue


Actor and singer Lou Wegner, who has most recently appeared with Clint Eastwood in Trouble With The Curve and is part of the pop music group 2Blonde, began rescuing animals at age 14, after becoming aware of the number of shelter animals euthanized while working on a film in Los Angeles.  Previously believing shelters to be safe havens, Wegner, now 16, is working to save as many animals as he can with the help of his friends and social networking. 

Wegner created Kids Against Animal Cruelty (KAAC) to encourage adoptions at high-kill shelters and to educate and inspire youth to take a stand against animal cruelty.  To date his organization has helped more than 20,000 pets find loving homes.  Initially, Wegner promoted his campaign by holding up signs on street corners with friends and using Facebook.  These days Wegner uses the red carpet to promote his cause, often sporting a KAAC T-shirt, as well as co-hosting the radio show, “Love That Dog Hollywood!  Kids & Animals,” broadcast by the Global Voice Broadcasting network.  Several KAAC chapters have sprung up across the country, run by other teens, and boasts more than 50,000 members worldwide.  Wegner hopes to see chapters in every state.  “The bigger the group, the bigger difference you can make,” he says.  Look for Kids Against Animal Cruelty on Facebook and watch his band singing about animal rescue in “1Life2Live” on YouTube.

From the off-the-hook shelf

From the off-the-hook shelf:  Good dogs go to heaven; bad dogs go everywhere

Fixing Freddie book.jpg

Fixing Freddi is a pet memoir in the vein of Marley and Me.  It is the true story “of a boy, a mom, and a very, very bad Beagle.”   Author Paula Munier traces her journey as a hapless dog owner who acquires Freddie, a Beagle with a nose for trouble.  The narration is honest and inspiring as Paula struggles and enjoys living with and loving a disaster of a pup.  Reading this book will almost surely make you feel better about your own bad dog.

Freddi the dog book.jpg

Freddi the Dog is another “bad dog” book, but this one’s for the kids.  Husband and wife authors, Lisa and Randy Herman, share the tale of a sweet, loving Bull Terrier, Fredericka, who has a “teeny, weeny, itsy, bitsy, tiny bone” that often gets tickled.  The illustrations by Bruce Hammond are fun and unique.  The book is the first in a series about the mischievous Freddie and her antics while her family is out.  This bad dog will surely make your children laugh.  Visit to become Freddi’s Friend, play games, enter contests, and order the book. 

Ribsy Makes His Mark in Celebration of Imagination

A very special doghouse created for Ribsy, a sweet pooch brought to life by Portland author Beverly Cleary, is on display as part of Storybook Playhouses, a benefit for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, July 24-Aug. 14 at Bridgeport Village in Tigard.

In addition to Ribsy’s doghouse are five storybook-themed children’s playhouses, two of which will presented to two lucky raffle winners; the others will be given to area nonprofits to raffle in support of their own efforts.