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2010 Hall of Fame
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Taka, a member of Love on a Leash Therapy K-9’s of Athens, Ala. was our first inductee, honored for his selfless service and the smiles he brings as a therapy dog. Taka regularly visits the veteran’s home in Huntsville, Ala. and is also a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ) at the Redstone Arsenal Library. His monthly “Tales with Taka” program has become a huge success by helping children improve their reading skills and confidence by reading to him. Through this program and Taka’s gentleness, he has also helped one 8-year old boy overcome his terror of dogs. In the past year a frequent reader program was also implemented where children who read to Taka five times during the year receive a “pawtographed” copy of one of Taka’s favorite books.

Along with several other therapy teams Taka and his owner and handler, Jamie Ward, helped honor veterans of each branch of the military last November by dressing in military costumes and performing skits with patriotic music. Taka has truly been a joy to people of all ages and walks of life.

Miss Sophie Grey of Athens, Ala., is also a Love on a Leash Therapy K-9 and has worked very hard in the last three years, earning her Canine Good Citizenship, Rally Novice title, Companion Dog title, Therapy Dog, Inc. registration, and her Intermountain Therapy Animals registration as a Reading Education Assistance Dog (READ). She truly is a wonderful, loving and sweet Yorkie that brings joy to every one she meets. It seems that Miss Sophie Grey’s therapy work is endless with the wide array of people she visits regularly including two local nursing homes, an Alzheimer facility, assisted living facility, veterans at Tut Fan in Hunstville, Ala., and the many preschoolers she visits each year. On her visits to the pre-schools she promotes responsible dog ownership, proper care, housing and nutrition. She is such a joy that parents ask each year if she will be coming back. As a READ dog Miss Sophie helps pre-K through third grade students at a local elementary school increase literacy and communication skills. It is easy to understand why her owner, Sheila Wilbanks, says “Miss Sophie loves everybody and everybody loves Miss Sophie!”

Xanto gives 110% as a working member of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit. He was adopted by the Sheriff’s department from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX in July of 2007. Xanto and his handler, Deputy Kristen Barnett have completed intense basic training and have also received the honor of “Best New Dog/New Handler Award” in 2008. Xanto is well trained in a number of different categories including narcotic detection and criminal apprehension. He is able to detect marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and any derivatives thereof. His obedience skills include heeling, agility, handler protection, search and tracking, just to name a few.

At work, Xanto is very protective of his patrol car and of Officer Barnett. Once outside the car he keeps his attention on her, waiting patiently for his next command. He is not aggressive, and his demeanor towards dogs is amazing. Officer Barnett testifies that he is like a light-switch when commanded. He can be aggressive in apprehending a criminal one second, and running to you with his ball the next!

Mike, a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd, was born deaf.His story is best summed up by Kitty Terry, Executive Director of Hand-In-Paw, “His so-called disability has yielded one of his greatest gifts – his unique ability to reach the unreachable and spread joy wherever he goes.”When Mike was born and the breeder discovered that he was deaf she saw no value in him, but thankfully there was some one there that saw beyond his disability and was determined to find him a home.Thankfully Mike found his way into the Layne family in Birmingham where Melannie Layne taught him American Sign Language (ASL).He now knows more than 30 different signs. When the Layne family discovered Hand-In-Paw, whose mission “is helping children and youth heal and maximize their potential through interaction with specially trained handler and animal teams,” they knew this was a perfect fit for Mike. After Melannie Layne and Mike became certified as a Pet Partner team with the Delta Society they began visiting several different facilities including nursing homes, Children’s Hospitals, Family Violence Centers and Bell Center for Early Intervention.
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