It all started with a dog named Barker...
It is amazing how one small instance can change the course of one’s life; what changed mine was rescuing a little brown dog we named Barker Buchbinder (the dog with two last names). His first name is Barker which was the last name name of the gentleman you see pictured on the right, Mr. Lynn C. Barker. Mr. Lynn we called him was a neighbor and close friend of the family and adored Barker and vice versa. Then there is Buchbinder, our family name. Consequently, Barker Buchbinder was affectionately referred to as the dog with two last names; the dog who changed my life forever.
The timing of Barker coming into my life could not have been more perfect as I was recovering from bone reconstruction surgery on both knees and confined to a wheelchair. Boredom quickly set in so to pass the time we began coming up with
games for Barker and me to play. I was amazed at how quickly Barker was able to rise to the challenges of the games we played. I did not realize it at the time, but Barker was performing “task work” as that of a service dog. This coupled with Barker’s ability to sense what I needed and provide it was amazing to me.
Then came Wags-for-Wishes® San Diego, CA! There Barker and I were introduced to the amazing world of
Make-A-Wish® and “all things dog”. We were introduced to dog obedience, therapy dogs, service dogs and various sporting events for canines/humans to compete as a team, while attending the 3-day fund raising event benefitting children with critical illnesses. While at Wags, Barker and I took the American Kennel Club® CGC evaluation and also a therapy dog team evaluation and passed both with 100% scores. We also met service dog trainers and evaluators who witnessed how well we worked together during evaluations, as I was driving my electric scooter and Barker assisted me when it got stuck in the sand. They recommended Barker be evaluated and we get certified so he could assist me as a mobility service dog.
So began my introduction to the wonderful world of therapy dogs. We soon began visiting at a local hospital as a therapy dog team providing comfort to strangers wanting to visit with a friendly dog. During this time I wanted to know more about service dogs and how they can benefit those of us with a disability. I was astounded at how much Barker could do and in two very different fields of work, he knew the difference and did both jobs very well!
I read anything and everything on working dogs, took every class available, worked one on one with the most qualified trainers and became certified/registered in most everything working dog related. In other words, I immersed myself in these two amazing worlds of therapy and service dogs. The following year we volunteered as a therapy dog team visiting wish families attending the Wags event and Barker became was soon titled a Canine Ambassador for Wags-for-Wishes® and Make-A-Wish®.
First there was Ambassador Barker, next was Ambassador Doc-Barker, both were mobility service dogs for me and registered therapy dogs, and now we have Ambassador Kidd-Barker to carry on; what a road we have traveled! Barker, if it were not for you, I would not be who I am today. Through you I learned to trust and believe in myself, thus giving me the ability to help others.
My last promise to Barker was to carry on his legacy and to further educate myself so I could pay it forward. And that promise morphed years later into the Barker Dog Foundation - thanks to a little brown dog who rescued me!