The Canine Assist Team Starting Five
Earlier this year, Cliff Paul made the State Farm® National Bureau of Assists starting five. We are now pleased to announce the State Farm Canine Assist Team starting five. These five amazing canines, and their human coach Victoria Stilwell, each bring very special and powerful assisting skills to this elite team.
Coach Victoria Stilwell
Every team needs a great coach. As a world-renowned dog trainer, TV personality and author, Victoria Stilwell fits that bill. This is not the first time State Farm has turned to her for leadership, most recently she served as the company’s spokesperson during National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
Best known as the star of the Animal Planet TV series, “It’s Me or the Dog,” Victoria is a passionate advocate for positive reinforcement dog training methods. She is also committed to increasing awareness of puppy mills, dogfighting, animal abuse, pet overpopulation, and other animal-related causes.
She documented the training of eight new, accelerant detection canine handlers and their canine partners. Her experiences at the State Farm Arson Dog Program training school resulted in a new web series called “Arson Dogs” and is available to watch on the Positively.com website or on Victoria’s YouTube Channel.
Super Smiley® the Ambassador of Kindness
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Smiley! Every team needs a cheerleader and the Canine Assist Team is no exception. In fact, the team has a SUPER cheerleader…Super Smiley, the Ambassador of Kindness! A two-time shelter dog, Super Smiley has now found his ”fur-ever” home with actress Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®.
Megan and Super Smiley are on a mission to help all shelter pets get adopted and spread the super message about being kind to animals and people. A certified therapy dog with Pet Partners and a HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response dog, Super Smiley provides comfort and support to people affected by disasters. He also teaches inner city and at-risk children the value of kindness through the Kindness with Super Smiley® Humane Education Program.
In addition to being on the Canine Assist Team, Super Smiley has been the Official Spokes-Dog for the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards. He even co-hosts his own award-winning animal advocacy/adventure radio show, “A Super Smiley Adventure,” on the Pet Life Radio Network.
According to Super Smiley, “Hero Dogs save lives and change lives! Look down at the dog looking up at you now and hug your personal Hero Dog. Then remember that at shelters right now, your Hero Dog may be waiting.”
Alik H218: Defender of Freedom IN MEMORIAM
Though he is retired from his official duties as a Military Working Dog (MWD), Alik H218 continues to serve. He is now a Goodwill Ambassador raising awareness of the contributions of our nation’s Military and Contract Working Dogs by attending special events and visiting schools, organizations and businesses.
After serving eight years with the United States Air Force Security Forces as a Patrol/Explosive Detector Dog (PEDD), Alik was medically retired in 2012, and adopted by Ruby and Wade Ridpath.
Ruby and Alik are now partnering with sculptor Austin Weishel to raise funds for the creation of the Colorado War Dog Memorial. The memorial celebrates all working dogs. Learn more at www.wardogmemorialcolorado.com.
“The dogs didn’t sign on the dotted line, yet, they work in the harshest of environments alongside our troops and some have given their lives for our country and freedoms. They didn’t ask for the job, but they do it willingly and selflessly,” says Ridpath.
“Our Police K-9s, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol dogs, Search and Rescue dogs, Arson dogs, TSA dogs - to me they’re all war dogs. They’re just fighting a different type of war.”
MWD Alik H218 passed away Saturday, May 23, 2015. We are saddened by his passing. He was a true warrior. His accomplishments represent the sacrifices military working dogs make when protecting and assisting our troops.
Elle the Pit Bull: High Fives for Friendship
After meeting Elle, the 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog, State Farm knew it had found a wonderful ambassador. Elle and her owner, Leah Brewer, educate people about responsible dog ownership and teach children about dog bite prevention, while also helping dispel myths and fear of pit bull dogs.
Since 2010, they have been working as a team with Therapy Dogs Incorporated. They visit nursing homes and schools. Their reading program called “Tail Wagging Tales” helps students practice reading in a non-judgmental environment. Students read to Elle and when ready, they read and make presentations in front of their class.
“Elle doesn’t care if the student is a beginning reader or doesn’t like to read in front of people,” says Brewer. “She calmly sits by their side with a non-judgmental ear and offers a reassuring paw when needed.”
Educating children about the proper way to interact with dogs and the importance of being a loving and responsible owner are critical to reducing dog bites. Leah and Elle are perfect examples of this message.
“I remind children that even though they know Elle, she is a dog and because of that, they should always ask first before petting her. Instead of a hug, Elle gives her trademark HIGH FIVE FOR FRIENDSHIP.”
Xena the Warrior Puppy
For Xena the Warrior Puppy being a most improved puppy meant physically improving. She was near death. Rescuers found her living in solitude, weighing just 4 pounds, covered in scabs and near starvation. After five months of rehabilitation with an animal rescue employee in Decatur, Georgia, she made a miraculous recovery and was ready to be adopted.
In nearby Johns Creek, autism was keeping eight-year old Jonny Hickey closed off from much of the world. While Jonny could speak, social interaction was awkward and unfamiliar situations triggered outbursts. It was difficult for his mom, Linda, and other members of the family to get Jonny to say more than a few words, let alone show any affection.
That changed on February 11, 2013, when Jonny Hickey met his forever friend, Xena the Warrior Puppy. On their first day together, Xena climbed into Jonny’s lap and kissed him all over his face. Their bond was immediate. Jonny began talking. He learned confidence, and has become more outgoing with his social interactions.
Together, Jonny and Xena the Warrior Puppy now raise awareness about autism and cruelty to animals through videos and their Facebook page. Their efforts have also been recognized by multiple organizations including winning the 2013 ASPCA Dog of the Year and the 2014 American Humane Association Emerging Hero Dog of the Year.
Jasper: Dysautonomia Defender
When a dog comes into a family, parents often have to remind their child that it is a responsibility. However, in Lukah’s case, it was a chance for her to become more independent. She suffers from dysautonomia - a rare and debilitating disease that causes frequent and severe seizures and loss of consciousness.
In July 2014, Lukah and her family got the call: Canine Partners for Life matched her with Jasper, a black lab trained to alert Lukah of her dysautonomia symptoms. In October, they made the 12-hour drive from Illinois to Pennsylvania to get Jasper. In the 6 months that they have been together, the two formed a bond that Lukah’s mother, Andi, calls incredible.
“She’s learned to listen to him, yet he doesn’t speak. She understands him, yet he doesn’t say words. She hears him clearly, yet he doesn’t have a voice,”
Andi wrote in her blog, Looking for Lukah. Andi and Lukah are now starting Doggone Disabilities, a non-profit organization, to help other families raise money for their own service dog through approved service dog organizations.