This week, the Westminster dog show crowned a new top dog for the Harrier breed: Ch. Downhome Family Tradition, or Coda for short.
Coda just happens to be the beloved family member of iVillage community leader Susan Lowder, and there's more to this Harrier breed than good looks—he's also a therapy dog for Susan's autistic daughter, Jennifer. Therapy dogs (and cats, too) help mentally stimulate patients who need long-term care; this is done by something as simple as petting, to more complex activities like tricks and playing games.
"He gets read stories, supervises art projects, gets dressed in some of her clothes, and helps her finish off the crusts of her sandwiches and pizza," Susan tells iVillage's sister site Petside about Coda's interactions with Jennifer.
More than that, Coda's Feb. 16 win netted Susan's two daughters an extended bedtime. "Our family watched him and Kim [Pastella-Calvacca, his handler] on TV, staying up past the girls' bedtime, with some popcorn and a nice fire in our fireplace on a cold night," she recalls.
Coda has even made the occasional appearance on the iVillage message boards. "Nothing is off-limits on the Hounds message board," Susan says. "I have answered questions about whelping puppies, house-breaking, training and behavioral issues...We discuss things like immunizations and micro-chipping, pet health insurance, how to get your hound to accept the baby you just found out you're expecting—just about anything."
Read the full interview with Susan about life with her champion on Petside.
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