LATHAM, N.Y. – If the saying `dogs are man's best friend' is true, then the German shepherd owned by the vice president of human resources for the New York State Credit Union League and who is a certified therapy dog, has a lot of friends. Brendan vom Konigsdorg is the five-year old German Shepherd owned by Mary Ann Bourgeois, vp of human resources for the New York State Credit Union League. She's been training Brendan since he was 10 weeks old, and in addition to being a certified therapy dog, Brendan also has a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) title which he earned when he was just a year old. In addition to his other credentials, he also received companion dog (CD) titles from the American Kennel Club and the Australian Shepherd Club of America – he got his first when he was two years old. He became a therapy dog after that, licensed by Therapy Dog International. "Dogs bring unquestioning love," said Bourgeois who is also a dog trainer by avocation and trains her own as well as other people's dogs who compete in obedience trials. "They're not nurses or doctors, they're just there to say `hi, how are you. If you pet me, I'll love you.' Dogs, especially in therapy settings are very accepting of what they encounter. That's very important to someone who's in therapy. If you're ill or disable, it's a special gift to be accepted. "It's interesting to observe a therapy dog working with people," Bourgeois continued. "Contact with a dog makes a difference. People drop their barriers and are very comfortable with dogs" Licensed therapy dogs are used with people staying in nursing homes, hospitals, eldercare facilities, and sometimes even to schools. Bourgeois takes Brendan to a therapeutic hospital. Therapy International has over 11,000 members, and there are more than 14,000 therapy dogs in the U.S. Dogs and handlers go through an intensive 12-hour evaluation before they're considered eligible. In addition, the handler is required to complete Red Cross and FEMA courses, and has to attend specific drills. Therapy Dogs International, Flanders, N.J. is a not-for-profit volunteer organization. Additional information is available on their Web site, [email protected]

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