Chris Mangrich, senior dog trainer for It’s a Dog’s World in Chino, was a bit skeptical when she heard a Maltese was coming in for evaluation.
The dog’s owner Cyndie Noteboom told Mangrich that her snow-white Maltese, Lexy, had the basics down well and was ready for more advanced training, but Mangrich had heard that before – especially from owners of small dogs.
“We don’t see many toy breeds or small dogs come in for training,” said Mangrich, who’s been training dogs professionally for more than six years. “They usually come in needing help more with behavior issues: house breaking, chewing, digging or being extra vocal.”
Mangrich explained that many small dogs, including the Maltese, are not only smart enough for training, but crave the mental challenges training brings. However, because of their size, many minor behavior problems go on unaddressed and training is not considered.
Lexy was an exception.
“I’d never seen a Maltese so well-trained and attentive as Lexy,” said Mangrich of the 5-pound 9-ounce cutie.
Among her repertoire of talents Lexy, now 3, break dances, plays dead, rolls over and plays hide and seek.
The pup’s owner and trainer agreed that this little girl was meant for a higher purpose and she was immediately placed in the intermediate class.
“Lexy’s not only smart, but she has a great personality and very friendly, we all knew she’d make a great therapy dog,” Mangrich said. “Most people tend to associate Labs or golden retrievers or German shepherds as being therapy dogs, but small dogs make great therapy dogs especially in a senior setting where they can be placed in a lap.”
To become a certified therapy dog takes a lot of dedications from the dog and its owner. Through many heath and environmental adversities, Lexy and her owner, Cyndie Noteboom, looked forward to the challenge.
Noteboom had received Lexy as a birthday gift October, 2007 from her husband Dan after a trying summer.
The July before, while vacationing in Hawaii, Dan Noteboom suffered a boogie-board accident which shattered his ankle and broke his leg.
Upon returning to their Pomona home, Dan, a Boeing executive, had surgery. One week later the couples’ cocker spaniel died from Cushing’s disease.
For three months the couple grieved. Getting another dog was discussed, but Dan’s recuperation required him to work from home, keeping his leg sedate and elevated. He was hesitant about having a puppy scampering around the house.
“We turned several rooms in the downstairs into his office,” Cyndie said. “My house really shrunk.”
Cyndie promised her husband if they got another dog, she would take it for training. Dan relented and on Oct. 16, Cyndie brought Lexy home.
“She fit right in my husband’s unused shoe,” said Cyndie laughing.
As promised, Cyndie and Lexy started classes: PetSmart for basic obedience then at It’s a Dog’s World for intermediate then took and past the test for canine good citizenship and eventually became registered with Delta Society Pet Therapy Partners within the Inland Valley Chapter of California.
The Delta Society is a non-profit organization that helps people live healthier and happier lives by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives.
Delta’s 45-minute test, according to its website, evaluates the animal/handler team, how well the handler interprets and manages the animal’s behavior, and how well the animal responds to the handler.
Cyndie and Lexy were one of four dog/human teams out of seven that passed Delta’s test that day — No easy task on general principle and for this team, who continued training through various stressful situations.
“I had to have knee replacement,” said Cyndie, who also suffers from severe fibromyalgia. “She was so therapeutic for me. She stayed by my bedside. That’s when I knew I needed to share her healing ways with others.”
Also during the pairs training, the Notebooms renovated their kitchen, family room and powder room.
This proved to have a positive side since the Delta certification of Pet Therapy Partners requires the animal/handler team to perform amidst distractions.
Using her five-week remodeling project Cyndie exposed Lexy to stores, warehouses, construction outlets and a variety of human contact, which gave Lexy many new experiences and socialization experiences.
“I gave Cyndie homework to practice in between her lessons, which involved taking Lexy to a variety of public spaces, both indoors and outdoors, where she could be exposed to a variety of people and situations,” said Mangrich in a press release.
“She did wonderfully. At one point, Cyndie said that she had taken Lexy with her into a home improvement store and a pallet of merchandise dropped on the floor right next to them and Lexy didn’t even flinch. Lexy is an amazing little dog. It isn’t often that we see a Maltese with her level of obedience skills.”
Cyndie and Lexy prepared for their Delta exam by duplicating anticipated test requirements as being handled and held by strangers, tolerating being bumped from behind by another person, staying calm in the presence of someone who may walk or move differently or who may speak in loud, angry voices.
Oct. 16, after almost a year of classes, and three years to the day that Cyndie brought Lexy home, Lexy and Cyndie passed the Delta Society Therapy Dog examination.
The team can now be accepted into hospitals and care facilities fulfilling Cyndie’s goal of lending comfort to children and cancer patients.
“Lexy will be a great comfort,” Cyndie said. “She’ll do tricks and makes people laugh, and when she sees someone who needs comfort, she’ll go up to you and give you her paw and it’s my hope that she’ll take away their pain even if it’s just for a few minutes.”