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Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

Barstow, California
Samson trains to be qualified therapy dog

By LCpl. Norman Eckles | Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow | September 18, 2013

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Samson poses for a photo in his cammoflauge utilities while visting offices on base, Sep. 9.

Samson poses for a photo in his cammoflauge utilities while visting offices on base, Sep. 9. (Photo by LCpl. Norman Eckles)

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Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. -- Dogs are being used more and more in hospitals, senior citizen homes and retirement homes as therapy dogs to comfort and entertain them while passing the time.

One American Bulldog is currently being trained to do just that...Samson, the two-year-old 'son' of William and Miriam Hemme, has spent numerous hours in training to become a theraphy dog.

“When we first adopted Samson, he had some problems,” said Miriam. “We think he was used as a bait dog. A bait dog is a dog that is used to get a fighting dog amped up before a fight. Samson had really bad anxiety.”

She further explained when they first got him; he would chew on everything in the house. His anxiety was so bad he jumped through a glass window. So they took him to a trainer to see if he could be trained.

“We took him to one of our friends, Randy Abbott, who is a behavioral dog trainer,” said Miriam.

When Samson was brought to Abbott, he was timid and didn’t know what to do without the Hemmes, explained Abbott.
“Samson was a good dog, but he just had trouble controlling his anxiety,” said Abbot. “It took a lot of patience, but he slowly started to catch on to each command.”

The trick is to get the dog into a working state where it realizes that the commands given to him are tasks he must complete. When it reaches that mindset, the animal becomes more confident. When confidence is gained everything else falls into place such as the basic commands ‘come,’ ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘no,’ and ‘lay down,’ Abbot explained.

“With Samson, it was just that way,” he expressed. “When we got Samson in the working state, all of the commands became second nature to him. However, it did take a lot of patience and repetition. The Hemmes had to dedicate at least an hour or two a day.”

Since the training was a success, Samson was given a new goal, which is to become a therapy dog, Miriam explained.

“We have been training Samson to become a therapy dog because our trainer said it would be a good idea for Samson,” she said. “At first we didn’t think it was a good idea. However, our church had a ‘trunk or treat’ and we went to pass out candy to children. We were all dressed up as mummies, including Samson, and (more than) half of the children touched him and petted him. So, we thought if he could be dressed up in a costume and let more than 100 kids pet him; he could be a therapy dog.”

Now, the Hemmes have trained Samson to pass the test every therapy dog must go through, Miriam added.

Therapy Dog International will be administering the test to Samson. The test consists of the dog’s comfort under furniture, friendliness, walking on a loose leash, the ability to sit in one spot for two minutes, and giving his paw gently. This is Samson’s first time taking the test. If Samson passes, he will become a volunteer therapy dog. “So far, Samson has performed well enough to where we believe he is ready to take the test!” she exclaimed.

The Hemmes will be putting Samson through testing in the next couple of months in hopes of him qualifying.
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