One of the best parts of my job as a full-time Certified Grief Therapy Dog and Director of Public Engagement at the Prout Funeral Home is connecting with the people I meet. I’m often asked a lot of questions about who I am and what I do so I decided to sit down with my handler, Julia Prout, and answer some of your most pressing questions.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in Indiana to my father, Snickers and mother, Mirage. I come from a long line of service dogs and therapy dogs on both sides of my family!
Q: How were you trained?
A: I was trained by Beth of Ultimate Canine in Indiana. Beth took me into her home as a young pup and taught me everything I know about being a great therapy dog. We went to schools, hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and I even interned with a grief therapy dog at a local funeral home!
Q: What does it mean to be a certified therapy dog?
A: I trained very hard to be the certified therapy dog I am today. I lived with my trainer and we worked full-time for months on obedience and commands. I even had to pass several rounds of testing to ensure I was ready for the job. At just seven months old, I passed all my tests and came home to my family at Prout Funeral Home in New Jersey where I trained them on how to be A+ certified therapy dog handlers.
Q: Why do you wear a vest?
A: My vest is my uniform- when I “get dressed,” I know that I am going to work and need to be on my best behavior. It also shows those who meet me that I am a therapy dog, ready to give lots of love and cuddles- unlike a service dog, I am here to be pet! Learn more about the benefits of grief therapy dogs.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: When the vest comes off, watch out! I am your average two year-old puppy- I love to play chase and tug of war with my family, squeak all of my toys as loud and fast as I can, go on long walks around Verona and play with my puppy friends!
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: I will try to eat anything and everything! While I love my kibble and treats, I especially like chicken, carrots and the puppy desserts Julia makes me.
Q: Do you have a favorite toy?
A: I love all of my toys but Ducky is my best [stuffed] friend.
Q: Why do you have a middle initial?
A: My parents (and Prout Funeral Home’s third generation owners), Meg and Bob Prout, first met in college at SUNY Morrisville in Morrisville, NY. When it came time to name me, Dad suggested “Morris V. Prout,” in honor of where it all began. Julia Prout likes to call me the family’s little “MVP!”
Q: What makes a good therapy dog? Can any dog be a therapy dog?
A: Great question! While all dogs provide comfort to their humans, not every pup is well suited to be a working therapy dog. It all boils down to temperament- are they comfortable in crowds? With strangers? Can they remain calm in difficult situations? Read more about what it takes to be a certified therapy dog here.
Q: What are the differences between a service dog, therapy dog and emotional support dog?
A: In short, service dogs go through intensive training to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities; therapy dogs like me provide emotional support in often stressful situations; emotional support dogs offer comfort to a specific individual with emotional or psychological conditions. It is very important to note that each category entails different levels of training and come with their own legal considerations as far as where they can and cannot go in public places. Learn more about these differences here.