Paws for concern

Donny isn’t your typical “froufrou” poodle. This service animal spends his days helping the hand that feeds him.



When Virginia Cannon began volunteering five years ago at Therapetics, a Tulsa-based organization that trains dogs to help Oklahomans with disabilities, she had no idea that a puppy she watched grow up in the program would someday become her much-needed extra arms and legs.

But after a car accident caused a serious spinal cord injury in 2007 that aggravated Cannon’s fibromyalgia and osteoporosis, she found walking difficult. When the Therapetics staff told Cannon she should apply for her own service dog, she reacted like many other clients.

“We basically had to twist her arm,” Therapetics Executive Director Lisa Bycroft says. “She kept saying that other people needed a dog more than she did.”

Six months after Cannon submitted her request for a service dog, she was partnered with Donny, a standard poodle that was part of the same class as other dogs she had trained. Most of Therapetics’ service dogs are Labrador and golden retrievers because of their size and their natural willingness to please humans. Standard poodles, while a rarer service breed, are even taller (about chest level for Cannon), are hypoallergenic and are extremely intelligent.

Once partnered with Donny, Cannon knew that the mild-mannered, strong dog was the perfect match for her personality and physical needs.

“He’s an amazing dog, and I can’t imagine life without Donny,” she says.

Much more than “man’s best friend”
Because Cannon has difficulty balancing, Donny wears a harness that Cannon grips as she walks. He commutes with her two days a week from their home in Glenpool to help Cannon navigate the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater, where she’s earning an honors literature degree. 

He also helps Cannon stand up and sit down, opens the refrigerator and retrieves items for her, which helps reduce her fatigue. But Donny periodically goes beyond easing her daily routine.

He alerts Cannon, who also has hypoglycemia, to dangerous changes in her blood sugar level about 45 minutes before she realizes there’s a problem. When necessary, he can retrieve emergency food or Cannon’s cell phone, circumventing a potentially life-threatening situation. Amazingly, Donny has never been trained in blood sugar detection, as Therapetics does not offer this type of training.

“Because of the bond between us, he can just smell and sense the chemical change in my body,” Cannon explains.

Cannon and Donny, who is almost 3, are approaching their first anniversary together, but since the average work life of a Therapetics service dog is about 10 years, their bond will undoubtedly continue to grow. After a dog’s service career officially ends, it becomes a regular pet and is often adopted by its partner as a result of that strong relationship, Bycroft says.

“Donny is everything to me,” Cannon says. “I can’t imagine partnerships that have gone on for 12 years. I’m still in the honeymoon stage.”

The making of a service dog

Therapetics has trained hundreds of service dogs like Donny since the program began in 1992. As a nonprofit, the organization relies on private financial support and volunteer assistance. Because Therapetics does not have a kennel, it is especially in need of puppy raisers, such as Becky Reordan, who lived with and trained Donny for nearly two years. 

Puppy raisers aren’t required to have any dog training experience. However, to be paired with a dog, they must agree to bring the dog to regular training classes and work with the dog at home and in public as much as possible.

“It’s important to start training in a real-world environment so the dog isn’t having to relearn without distractions later,” Bycroft says.

Most service dogs begin age-appropriate training around 8 or 9 weeks old. Dogs are donated from local breeders, although Therapetics recently began its own breeding program, with plans to raise its first litter later this year, while continuing to accept donated dogs. After two years of obedience and advanced training, a Therapetics dog still must put in 100 additional hours of specialty training with its proposed partner. This allows the dog to learn commands and actions that are specific to that individual’s needs.

The dogs learn both verbal commands and hand signals and view the long process as merely “structured play,” Reordan says.

She points out that while puppy raising requires a significant time commitment, the hardest part is saying goodbye. Fortunately, she and Cannon have become close friends, so she visits Donny regularly.

“Giving him up was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “I’ve seen firsthand what he’s been able to do for Virginia.”

Changing lives, one dog at a time
To qualify for a Therapetics dog, individuals must have a disability that affects their everyday mobility or is expected to reach that level, Bycroft says. Like Cannon, about half of the organization’s clients have suffered a spinal injury. Many have progressive conditions such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, spinabifida or rheumatoid arthritis.

Recipients also must be able to manage a dog independently and must have the financial means on their own or through assistance to take care of the dog. The average wait time for a Therapetics dog is about two years.

Once a client receives a service dog, Oklahoma law allows it to accompany him or her to public places, including restaurants and stores. Service dogs generally fascinate kids, but clients sometimes experience resistance from people who aren’t familiar with dogs or belong to cultures that treat dogs differently than in the U.S., Bycroft says.

Cannon says Donny often garners polar reactions: adoration or panic. While she understands people’s natural curiosity, she explains that encroaching movements or loud noises can be a major distraction to service dogs and to clients’ families.

“You have to allow so much extra time to answer people’s questions,” she admits.

While Therapetics’ service dogs are wonderful, Bycroft says the program is mostly about changing someone’s life for the better, something Cannon and her family — 15- and 13-year-old daughters and a 17-year-old son — have experienced firsthand.

“I can take my girls to the mall,” she says. “I can go to the grocery store by myself now. Last year was the first time in many years that I actually went Christmas shopping. I can do the little things in life that other people take for granted.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Add your comment:

 

Get the best in arts, entertainment and more straight to your inbox.

Join our email list

Edit ModuleShow Tags

August 2019

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Senior Star Round-Up - August 18 - Cain's Ballroom - 2 to 5 p.m. The annual Senior Star Round-Up is Sunday, August 18, at the Cain's Ballroom, 423 N. Main Street in Tulsa. This popular...

Cost: $10

Where:
Cain's Ballroom
423 N. Main St.
Tulsa, OK
View map »


Sponsor: Senior Star Living
Telephone: (918) 664-9000
Contact Name: Emily Fox

More information

BROKEN ARROW COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE Presents “The Wizard of Oz” (R.S.C.1987) By L. Frank Baum With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg Background Music by...

Cost: $22-$25

Where:
Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
1800 S Main St
Broken Arrow, OK  Broken Arrow
View map »


Sponsor: Broken Arrow Community Playhouse
Telephone: 918-258-0077
Contact Name: 74012
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

You're invited to our new store Grand Opening Celebration in Broken Arrow, August 21st for an all day event! As you know, this year marks our 30 year anniversary of serving business minded...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stow's Office Furniture
3604 S Elm Place
Broken Arrow, OK  74011
View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Sign up now for the Tulsa Area United Way's 9th Annual Golf Scramble – a local tradition that pairs an enjoyable morning of golf with helping your community.

Cost: $400 per team

Where:
LaFortune Park Golf Course
5501 S Yale Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74135
View map »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

  The biggest sporting event in history for Broken Arrow is set to happen on Friday, August 23rd. The event will take place outside in Downtown Broken Arrow near the intersection of...

Cost: $52.00

Where:
Downtown Broken Arrow
The intersection of Commercial and Main streets
Broken Arrow, OK
View map »


Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Wings, Wheels & Wishes is a fly-in, car and bike show benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma in loving memory of Collinsville Wish Kid, Bill Campbell. Our event features vintage...

Cost: Free to the public

Where:
Airman Acres Airport
12600 N. 73rd E. Ave.
Collinsville, OK  74021
View map »


Telephone: 918-510-3423
Contact Name: Cindi Conner
Website »

More information

  Our 17th Annual CimTel Classic 5K is August 24, 2019! The registration begins at 6:30am and the race begins at 8am at Cleveland High School 600 N Gilbert Cleveland, OK. The entry fee is $25 for...

Cost: 25.00

Where:
Cleveland High School
600 N Gilbert
Cleveland, OK  74020
View map »


Sponsor: CimTel
Contact Name: Allee Pearson
Website »

More information

Featuring more than seventy works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: (405) 236-3100
Website »

More information

Maker Faire Tulsa is an award-winning, family-friendly event celebrating technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability, and making of all kinds. The 7th...

Cost: Free

Where:
Central Park Hall at Expo Square
1701 S Sandusky Ave
Tulsa, OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: Fab Lab Tulsa
Telephone: 918-779-6025
Contact Name: Nathan Pritchett
Website »

More information

Maker Faire Tulsa is an award-winning, family-friendly event celebrating technology, education, science, arts, crafts, engineering, food, sustainability, and making of all kinds. In 2019, Fab Lab...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Central Park Hall @ Expo Square
4145 East 21st Street
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »

More information

Bobby O’s Slices + Pies, located in the Meadow Gold District along Route 66, will host a day of meal deals, merchandise giveaways, and kids activities for their Back-to-School Bash. The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bobby O's
1502 E. 11th St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Sponsor: Bobby O's
Telephone: 918-586-2455
Website »

More information

Oh, Tulsa is a Living Arts biennial that celebrates visual, performance, literary, sound, video, and installation art for the Tulsa community. Eligible work includes: Tulsa residents, artists who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East M. B. Brady St.
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »


Telephone: 918-585-1234
Website »

More information

America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
View map »


Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
Website »

More information

DIVAS JUMP THE POND - THE BRITISH INVASION!! DIVAS 4 H.O.P.E. features live music from Tulsa’s diverse local artists along with cocktails, dinner, and one-of-a-kind live and silent auction...

Cost: $15,000 - $250

Where:
Assembly Hall - Cox Business Center
100 Civic Center
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc.
Telephone: 918-688-5022
Contact Name: Kathy L Williams
Website »

More information

Help DVIS and the Tulsa Drillers knock out violence! We are in our 16th year of raising funds for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Join us by pledging per home run or making a...

Cost: $1+

Where:
Tulsa, OK


Sponsor: DVIS
Telephone: 918-508-2709
Contact Name: Jenée Day
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

What's New


How do you create affordable housing for all Tulsans?

Q&A with Becky Gligo, City of Tulsa's first housing policy director

Comments

Video: Onifade's Cookie Co.

Comments: 1

3:01: Higher Education - Dr. Leigh Goodson

Dr. Leigh Goodson, president and CEO of Tulsa Community College, on TCC's 50th anniversary, the Tulsa Achieves program and the importance of going to college in 2019.

Comments

Oklahoma's Best-Sellers

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

Comments

August Events

Here's a small sampling of all the things to do in Tulsa this during August 2019.

Comments