James, a Therapy Dog, teaches a little boy how to kiss


CH Felicity’s Diamond Jim, (“James”), was an English Springer Spaniel owned by Terri Patton and the winner of the 2007 Best in Show Award at Westminster. This was his 51st Best in Show victory, and his last, as his owner retired him to dedicate more time towards his other ability, being a therapy dog. Before he had been a show dog, he was a well loved therapy dog, specializing in working with residents in senior facilities; dementia and Alzheimer’s facilities and pediatric oncology centers. Everyone who knew him felt the love and special spirit this dog had to offer.

“The depth of James’ personality allowed him to form close and very special relationships with many people. And James didn’t discriminate – everyone was his best friend if they gave him love and attention. He knew how to draw people in. More importantly, he knew how to hold onto them and keep them wanting more. Over the last years of James’ life, he brought such tremendous happiness to everyone he met. He taught Terri and others to celebrate every day as if it could be their last. Stories abound of how he touched people in his life…

On… (a) visit to the Ronald McDonald House in New York, Terri and James met a four yer old boy who had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the face, maxilla, and eye socket. Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer in childhood, but it is more commonly found in the arms and legs. James and Terri were at the Ronald McDonald House at 5 p.m. when the children were returning from there treatments at Sloane-Kettering. Although they interacted with several youngsters, one child stood out – a young boy who seemed very reserved and hesitant. James didn’t waste any time in starting their interaction. He looked at the young boy, walked over, and sat right next to him. Terri walked over to where they were seated, looked into the boy’s gentle eyes, and reassuringly said, “James likes you. He would love a hug and perhaps a kiss if you would like to.”

At first the young lad just pet James. James reciprocated the affection and scooted closer. Eventually, they were just inches apart. To Terri’s surprise, the child reached over, hugged, and kissed her little brown dog right on the top of his head. Terri was so please with his response but was startled to hear several gasps in the room. She looked up and reassured the surrounding adults that James was very gentle. Almost in unison, the small group of adults responded in chorus, “No, that’s not it. We have been trying for weeks in his physical therapy to get him to pucker like a kiss to strengthen the muscles in his face. He has resisted because of the pain he has to endure. It is amazing that James just got him to do this in only a few seconds.” Terri smiled and was happy for the boy. She was very aware of how James made people feel so at ease. That was another gift of his to others. Consequently, people would go out of their way to reciprocate his kindness. In this case, it was a kiss that really came from the heart!”

From Our Faithful Companions: Exploring the Essence of Our Kinship with Animals by Aubrey H. Fine, Ed.D.

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