Xander the pug doesn’t have eyes, but he has a huge heart.
The proud pup is working to make people happier as a therapy dog helping organizations like Klamath-Lake CARES (child abuse response and evaluation services) and Hands and Words are not for Hurting.
Xander put his skills on display Tuesday, visiting Tiny Hopefuls Daycare with Hands and Words are not for Hurting. Surrounded by a ring of preschoolers, Xander welcomed hands stroking his back and head, even gently pulling on his tail to see it curl back up. Xander didn’t flinch at the peals of laughter. He didn’t get anxious in the crowd. For him, it was business as usual.
“If I was blind and in a crowd of people on top of me I would be freaking out,” Rodney Beedy, who owns Xander with his wife, Marcie, said. “He has no qualms whatsoever. He has a good stable temperament.”
Rodney and Marcie adopted Xander from the Klamath Animal Shelter in January. He is now a little more than a year old. They don’t know what happened to his eyes, only that there was an accident and the eyes had to be removed. Xander also has problems breathing through his nose and instead breathes mostly through his mouth. Every once in a while he lets out a big gasp through his mouth, vibrating his lips. Some people think he’s growling, but Rodney said it’s more like the sound a horse makes.
“He’s just another dog,” Rodney said. “He still wants to play and do everything a normal dog does.”
“He uses the doggie door like the rest of them,” Marcie added. At home the Beedys have seven other pugs.
When they decided to adopt Xander, Rodney and Marcie knew he would be a good therapy dog.
“This would be perfect for a therapy dog because of the way his attitude was: how calm he was but he still had a good outgoingness,” Rodney said.
Xander took some basic obedience classes at Double-C dog training and took a few tests to see how he would react to people who are injured.
In one of the tests a woman knelt down and started groaning as if she was injured and in pain.
“Xander tilted his head, pulled Marcie and started giving her kisses,” Rodney recalled.
Xander also has been on hand at the animal shelter to help children who are afraid of dogs.
“One girl was crying, so I went and got Xander,” Rodney said. “The girl’s empathy went to him and she totally forgot about everything else. She started laughing and playing with Xander. It was amazing how well he did that.”
Now Xander struts while wearing his therapy dog vests. One of his vests has the Hands and Words are not for Hurting patch, too. He is available to help children who have been abused by being their buddy, visit nursing homes, or help get out anti-violence messages with organizations like the Hands group.
Rodney said in an ideal world no one would be in pain and no one would need Xander’s help.
“It would be great if Xander didn’t have a job,” he said. “There would be no hurting kids out there. If Xander didn’t have a job that would be wonderful. He would just play all the time.”
But until children aren’t hurting any more, he’s going to be there.