13 February

Happy News. Zinnia Gets Her Badge

by Jon Katz

I took Zinnia to an SPCA certified therapy dog trainer yesterday, she passed her first Therapy Dog Test with flying colors; she is the youngest therapy dog ever to pass this trainer’s test.

Papa is proud. This is way ahead of schedule – like a year or two.

Zinnia will need a final qualifying test in September when she is a year old.

But she did so well yesterday she got a badge certifying her as a Therapy Dog.  She is good to do her hospice and hospital and eldercare work.

I have some more training to do, but it is peripheral. “She’s a natural,” the trainer said, and she said some nice things about me too. Zinnia just sailed through it, attentive, calm, and responsive.

She did bark at some other dogs, but stopped when I gave her the command “shut up, please.” I need to work on that.

She lay down, sat, and stayed for five minutes. She came when called, stopped when asked, and jumped on a sofa when requested.

She stayed calm when the trainer and her assistant shouted at her, stomped their feet, banged pots, and barked. At one point, the trainer left the room to see if Zinnia would stay. She did.

I thank Bishop Maginn High School for teaching her that.

She even left a bowl of good untouched when told to “leave it.” She did not jump up or put her paws on any of the people trying to get her excited. At one point, the trainer scattered biscuits all over the floor, and Zinnia started to lurch, but she stopped cold when I gave the “stay” command.

Happy ending, though, she went back after the test was over and got each one.

Many of you have asked me where the trainer is, but for now, I don’t feel easy revealing that. You may remember what happened to my breeder when I revealed her name.

Two or three people went out of their way to tell her I was a puppy-killer and shouldn’t be sold one of her puppies. Other people send her nasty and disturbing messages.

I’m afraid that isn’t the first time this has happened. Some people use their love of dogs to hate people.

As you know, I am a huge fan of transparency, but there are so many sad and broken people out there that I’ll wait, at least until the process is completed this Fall.

I don’t want the trainer to go through what Lenore, our breeder, went through. And I don’t want to go through it either. To the injured people who sent those messages, I’ll try to rise above myself here: don’t do that to anyone else again.

Being open doesn’t mean being open about everything; we live in difficult times.

But this is a happy event for me. My therapy work at the Mansion, now in hospitals, and in hospice is very important to me. Six months after Red died, I never expected to have a dog as good at is as Zinnia is.

I did work hard at it, and so did she. But Lenore Severnie is a hell of a breeder, Zinnia is a grounded dog, she can learn to do anything. I messaged Lenore this morning, she messaged right back: “Woo-hoo!”

Today, when we go to Saratoga Hospital for our meeting with Susan and her dogs, she can wear her badge. I’ll pass on the vest and bumper stickers.


  1. An enthusiastic congratulations to both you and Zinnia. This is such a wonderful story and so much fun to read about. Thanks for sharing the journey.

  2. So proud of both you and Zinnia. You are a very good trainer! She is a wonderful dog, and I love reading about her. Thank you for “sharing” her adventures with us.

  3. Congratulations! I’m so proud of both you and Zinnia. There is definitely something spiritual and almost supernatural about sweet Zinnia. Since I can no longer have a puppy, I’m so glad you let us enjoy Zinnia.

  4. Congrats to you and Zinnia! That sounds like a challenging test for a dog to pass. Good girl, Zinnia. What a great team you two will make!

  5. Jon, this is wonderful news and a testament to the dog’s breeding and your training. Now, would you please come here to the Farmer’s Walk and teach Annie not to bark. She is an nine year old Aussie and she should have been given a voice instead of a bark. She barks when I got out to hang the clothes on the clothesline, she barks when I take the garbage out, she barks when I go into the ‘john’, she micromanages my life. I’ve bought a high pitched squealy device that is supposed to stop dogs barking, I’ve tried a bark collar, I’ve tried saying ‘No” Stop, nothing works. Any tips on training an old dog new tricks, including her mother?
    Sandy Small Proudfoot,
    Ont. Canada

  6. So pleased for you, Jon. You and Zinnia were meant for each other and what a team you are already! Congratulations to you both XXX

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