Sneak Peek: Successful Tails: The Wonders of Therapy Dogs

By Patricia H. Wheeler, PhD
Published by AuthorHouse, 2012

I have been a therapy dog handler since 2002, when my dog, Lawrence, the Livermore
Lab, started going to an Alzheimer’s facility each week. In 2004, he began going to the
VA in Livermore, California, at least once or twice a week. The following year, my other
dog, Albert, started going to the VA and then to Shepherd’s Gate (a shelter for battered
and homeless women and children). And both of them began visiting the five Easy
Living Care Home assisted living sites. They also have been going to community events,
schools, and elsewhere. In 2010, they started going to Welcome Home Celebrations for
our troops returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other tours of duty.

In 2005, I realized what a difference my dogs were making for the people they served. I
could not attribute what they were doing to any training we had been through. So I started
collecting stories. Then I got the idea of doing a publication about their work and the
impact they were having on those they served. Quickly, this grew into a book and the
inclusion of other therapy dogs and of other sites and programs in addition to the VA.

This has been a seven-year project. But now I have testimonials from over 200 people—
staff, residents, patients, students, family members, and others—and over 350 stories
about the successful work of over 50 therapy dogs. Their work covers a variety of sites,
programs, and events—nursing homes and assisted living facilities, schools, libraries,
a police department, a shelter, camps for children with challenges, retirement homes,
a senior day care program, community events (parades, concerts, ceremonies), and
Welcome Home Celebrations for our military. The book also contains 18 poems, most
of them written by veterans at the VA in Livermore about what the therapy dogs mean to
them, and many photos of the dogs at work. In addition, the book has short bios for the
51 therapy dogs and the 46 handlers featured in the book.

The dogs include purebreds and mixed breeds, ranging in size from under 10 pounds
to over 130 pounds. Some were obtained from breeders, others rescued from terrible
circumstances. They range in age from two to seventeen years. Several have passed
away, but their service is not forgotten. And they serve all kinds of people, infants to
centenarians, many with physical, emotional, social, and cognitive challenges.

The testimonials and stories run the gamut of emotions. Some will make you laugh or
smile, while other will bring tears to your eyes. They are very touching. Congressman Jerry McNerney, who wrote the Foreword for the book, writes, “The stories and testimonials contained in these pages will open your eyes to the world of therapy dogs and how beneficial they can be for people.” Susy Flory, co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, writes, “Successful Tails is a heartwarming collection of stories and photos of therapy dogs at work. I predict you will enjoy getting to know these extraordinary dogs and the people who love them and, perhaps, even fall in love with them. I know I did.”

This book isn’t just for people who want to become therapy dog handlers or staff at sites and programs that would like to have therapy dogs for those they serve, though both of these groups will find it useful. This book is for everyone. It is a wonderful book to read
when you are waiting, whether at the doctor’s office, the train station, or the airport. You
can read as little or as much as you want at one time. It makes good bedtime reading,
and hopefully you will fall asleep and have beautiful dreams about dogs and the people
they serve. I am sure you will enjoy it, and, if you are not already a dog lover, you will
probably become one.

15 Responses to Sneak Peek: Successful Tails: The Wonders of Therapy Dogs

  1. sandy September 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    great job! Nice and clean. Can’t wait to see it with the front cover on it 😉

  2. Dar Miklosovich September 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    Great photo of you and the boys. We’ve heard so much about these wonderful dogs and your work. We’re really looking forward to reading the book. Happy traveling!

  3. Nancy, aka Mrs A September 19, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Patricia, that is a gorgeous picture of you and your precious dogs!!! Blessings on your endevours!

  4. Mary Jane Guinn September 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Pat , your picture with Lawrence and Albert is wonderful. Great article too. Would love to have a copy of you book.

  5. Adrienne Cannon November 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Congratulations Pat, on getting through the complicated and tedious process of publishing your book so you can tell the story of your beloved therapy dogs. I am looking forward to reading your tales.

  6. Judy Butterly November 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Pat, Thanks so much for the wonderful book. I am having a hard time putting it down. Such great stories and pictures. I have two friends who are such dog people and I have an easy decision on their Christmas present! Mitsy and I enjoyed seeing you today. Much success with the book.

  7. Diane Bergholtz November 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Pat, l purchased your book and am enjoying reading through it. It is easy reading and one can read a few of the stories and comments, put it down and then come back to it without losing any content.
    Great job on a subject more people need to know about,.
    Keep up the good work.

  8. Bruce Gross January 17, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    What a great book. We have three pet therapy dogs, Amber who is 13 years old, a therapy dog for ten years. Roger who is ten years and Chief who is three years. They also work for the D.A.s office helping children through the court process. Chief is a blood donor dog at UC Davis as well.

    • Pat Wheeler January 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm #


      Wonderful hearing from you. How did you learn about my book?

      I am working on a second volume of Successful Tails and would love to include you and your dogs in the next volume. I hope to include more types of sites and programs, such as your work with the DA’s office.

      Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Pat Wheeler

  9. Joy Montgomery January 27, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Beautiful photo! Congratulations on getting the book published even with all of the obstacles. So happy for you.

  10. Marion S March 13, 2013 at 6:18 am #

    Pat Wheeler’s book, Successful Tails, is fascinating and very instructive. Excellent reading and information. I always enjoyed talking to Lawrence and Albert when visiting my late husband at Livermore Manor. from Marion Stearns

  11. Diane N. June 5, 2013 at 10:21 am #


    This book was a delight to read! The testimonials are heartwarming, and it was an easy read. Considering I am a “cat person”, this book gave me insights into dogs that I never knew. I especially enjoyed hearing about the children who read to the therapy dogs.

    Congratulations to you, Pat, for bringing this book to the public.

  12. JoDee Robertson July 22, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    Hi Pat,
    I am going to order your book today. I have a 12 week old cream golden retriever that I’m training to be a therapy dog. I volunteer for Hospice and I think he would be wonderful for this work/play.

    Do you also have classes where you help train? I live on the coast, but would be willing to come East Bay.


  13. Pat Wheeler August 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    JoDee, Please give me a call and we can talk about how you can become involved in a therapy dog program. 925-443-5526

  14. Perry Broxton August 19, 2013 at 4:41 am #

    Hi Pat;
    My wife just sent me your book, ‘Successful Tails’ and I knew immediately I would love the book without even opening the book! Just reading your comments on the back cover brought tears to my eyes. I’m currently working in Afghanistan so I’m sure your book will help pass the time in wonderful fashion.

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