Sebastian walks gently through the room of a resident at an Elbert County senior home as someone reaches out an arm to touch his lanky body. Several people edge closer toward him as his nose takes in the scents throughout the room.
Twice a month, …
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Twice a month, Sebastian serves as a Dog Joy ambassador, and with his owner, Marlene Groves, they visit several senior homes where the residents can pet him and reflect on some of their past pets.
“He has regulars who expect their 10 minutes of time with him where they knead his surplus skin or touch his velvety ears,” said Groves, a retired business consultant and “bloodhound and purebred dog enthusiast.”
“I enjoy the sport of dog showing, but I have an even greater passion for educating others on purebred dogs,” Groves said.
She and her husband, David, began breeding bloodhounds after learning more about the breed.
“We saw many breeders focusing on a winning show dog bloodhound versus a functional working bloodhound,” Marlene explained.
“We felt that was wrong, and though we are not a big-time breeding kennel, we strive for a bloodhound which meets the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard but that is healthy in both body and mind so that I can do the job of trailing.”
According to the AKC, “The purpose of a trailing trial is to certify the bloodhound’s abilities for trailing and correctly identifying a specific person in a field setting.”
Sebastian’s successful career as a show dog included ranking in the Top 20 four times. He had photo shoots with Colorado Country Life and Vogue in New York City and has been blogged about by Martha Stewart.
Although he is now a retired show dog at age 7 1/2, Sebastian is not done working. In addition to his role as a Dog Joy ambassador, Marlene takes him to libraries and schools to visit with kids and help teach them about bloodhounds. The Elizabeth Library is considering developing a monthly dog program in which Sebastian would play a part.
Sebastian also helps with dog show judges’ education and “meet the breed” demonstrations.
“It is his sweet but willing nature that makes him good at this,” Marlene said.
One of the key lessons Marlene uses Sebastian’s assistance with is how to greet a dog.
Although the Groves own three bloodhounds, Sebastian could be called Marlene’s favorite.
“Sebastian is different in that he is probably the most rock-solid dog — he’s been there, done that,” Marlene said.
“He is also the most sensitive dog, a very emotional dog, so that makes him extra-special for both public education and therapy.”
How to greet a dog
One of the trainings that Sebastian the bloodhound helps provide is how to greet a dog. Here are the steps:
1. There is a “magic question” before petting or touching a dog: “May I pet your dog?”
2. Sometimes an owner will say “no” if the dog is young or if the dog is a working service dog. For those, “no” absolutely means “no.”
3. Let the dog sniff you by extending your hand — palm down, fingers down. Smelling is how dogs process.
4. After that introduction, pet or scratch the dog. Most dogs love being rubbed under the chin.
5. Never put your face in the dog’s face or hover over the top of a dog. These gestures can be too intimidating for some dogs.
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