Author Archives: Anna Holton-Dean

Viral Cuteness

posted June 15th, 2016 by
Coconut Oil

Viral Cuteness – Spreading the love of a boy and his dog

By Anna Holton-Dean

Viral CutenessWhat’s cuter than a baby or a dog?

The answer can only be a baby and a dog.

Photographer Jarod Knoten thought so when he snapped a photo back in 2012 of his 2-month-old son Porter and rescue pooch Pixel, snuggling together.

Knoten was snapping photos of his newborn when Pixel jumped up on the bed and joined him. “Pixel was lying behind Porter, so I propped him up on her chest between her front and back legs,” he says. “After a couple of shots, Porter fell over on top of her front legs, and she pulled her leg out from underneath him and snuggled up with him. Of course, I started firing away.”

Knoten posted the photo to (via with the caption, “Just my dog spooning my baby. Nothing to see here.” As the views kept growing, it became apparent he wasn’t the only one who found it adorable.

Since the photo’s original posting to reddit, and an updated posting by Knoten’s wife Claire with an additional photo, the  two photos combined on imgur have collected over 2 million views, reaching viral status. The photos have been featured on numerous sites including Animal Planet, Disney Family, Huffington Post, The Chive, BuzzFeed and the ASPCA.

For all the shares, reposts and love the original photo received, there was criticism and judgment. As with anything on social media, people can and will find something to criticize.

“The photo of Porter and Pixel got as much backlash as it did praise,” Knoten says. “A lot of people complained that we were putting our infant at risk by exposing him to our dog.

“Obviously, we would never put our child in a situation where he could be hurt. We knew when we got Pixel that it wouldn’t be too long before we thought about having children, so we did our research and trained her accordingly.

“We tried to play with her like a child would, playfully tugging on her ears, tail, etc. By the time Porter was born she was unfazed by getting tugged on and was prepared to handle how Porter may interact with her during their supervised interactions when he was very little. Porter turned 2 on Nov. 2, and they are best buds and partners in crime.”

As confirmation of their responsible parenting, Claire’s updated photo posting to reddit, stacked with the original of Porter and Pixel, displays the caption, “She’ll bite they said… 9 months later still only kisses.”

The original photo’s popularity hasn’t waned almost two years later. In February 2014, a representative from National Geo-graphic contacted Knoten about licensing the photo for use in a new book, “67 Reasons Why Cats Are Better Than Dogs.” The publication is a silly, witty take on the “age old battle: cat vs. dog.”

The photo’s caption in the book says, “Without the slightest hesitation, dogs will often abandon their own children for the first interesting looking human baby they come across, as this reprehensible photo demonstrates.”

It’s all in good fun, but truthfully, as far as they know, Pixel didn’t abandon anyone (or any puppies). She was found on a rural road as a small puppy by the Knotens’ friends while they were moving. The couple posted a photo of her on Facebook, looking for someone to take her in.

Already discussing the addition of another dog for a while, Knoten said to his wife, “Let’s go look at her,” to which she replied, “You never go to look at a puppy; you go to pick a puppy up.”

“She was the perfect size and sweet as  can be, but she was in pretty bad shape health-wise,” Knoten says.

Pixel had a range of ailments including mange, an infected tail wound, malnourishment and the “home run” of intestinal parasites, according to the veterinarian. But with a lot of love and a little time, she was on the mend, playing with the Knotens’ older Shih Tzu and making friends at the dog park. “Truly the perfect addition to our family,” Knoten says. 

When the photos went viral, commenters wanted to know Pixel’s breed. Their best guess is a Border Collie mix, “or in our opinion, the best mixed breed ever,” he says.

No stranger to viral photos, Knoten had a previous run with his work making the Internet rounds. Perhaps without even knowing it, you’ve seen Knoten’s “skeptical baby” photo, which he originally posted to his blog in 2011. It quickly turned into a popular meme (i.e., spread from person to person online) with various captions.         

Despite being a professional photo-grapher with a previous viral photo, Knoten says he never thought the photo of Porter and Pixel would be as popular as it has been; he just hoped someone would find it as cute as he did.

Today, 2-year-old Porter and Pixel (4 years) are still best buds who like to get into mis-chief together. One of Porter’s favorite things to do is fill his dump trucks with dog food and deliver it to her. “There’s the occasional sneaking food to the dog from the dinner table as well,” Knoten says.

Porter also recently learned to play fetch with her. They still snuggle, and “I imagine,” Knoten says, “when Porter is sleeping in a big kid bed, we will no longer be sharing our bed with Pixel.”

Undoubtedly, Knoten will capture it, and it will be just as cute as their early snuggle days. Until then, the Internet—and all of us—will be waiting for the photo.

“67 Reasons Why Cats Are Better Than Dogs” can be purchased on

The Endearing History of Reindeer and Christmas

posted December 5th, 2015 by

By Anna Holton-Dean


Christmastime is near, and we bet our mistletoe many of you will soon be singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” watching the iconic cartoon of the same name or even putting antlers on Fido for a holiday snapshot.

But have you ever stopped to ponder how reindeer came to be synonymous with Christmas? Or do reindeer even exist? While Rudolph alone might be a beloved, fictional character, reindeer are 100-percent real.

Spotting one might sound exciting, but reindeer are a common sight in  many regions where they are nowhere near endangered. They can be found in Europe, Asia, Greenland and even North America, particularly in Maine where they are known as Caribou; there’s even a town in Maine named Caribou.

Sometimes hunted for meat and  hides, reindeer are domesticated for milking and pulling things during Arctic or Subarctic winters, according to “Caribou have large hooves that are useful tools for life in the harsh northlands,” according to National Geographic. “They are big enough to support the animal’s bulk on snow and to paddle it efficiently through the water. The hoof’s underside is hollowed out like a scoop and used for digging through the snow in search of food. Its sharp edges give the animal good purchase on rocks or ice.”

With that knowledge, it’s easy to see how a storyteller would choose reindeer for pulling Santa’s sleigh through snow. Throw in a little “willing suspension of disbelief” by giving them flight, now you’ve got a story!

“In terms of stories, Santa is much older than his trusted reindeer,” says. As early as the 4th century, stories were told of a jolly old man dropping off presents during the Christmas holidays.

“But it wasn’t until the 1800s that reindeer joined the party. Previously, South Americans believed Santa rode a donkey, while Europeans thought he owned a white horse. Reindeer made their first appearance, it’s believed, in  the poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (which we now know as ‘The Night Before Christmas’), written by Clement C. Moore.” The poem made them a permanent fixture in American culture.

So what about Rudolph? He was made for marketing purposes. In 1939, Robert Lewis May created a rhyming book for promotional purposes for Montgomery Ward department store. His book, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” sold more than 6 million copies over the next 10 years, says.

In 1947, Gene Autry recorded the Rudolph song and, just as the lyrics proclaim, he will surely “go down in history.”

And the red nose? “Reindeer have 25 percent more blood vessels in their nasal region than humans, meaning more blood flows there. At higher elevations, their blood flow increases    in order to keep warm, turning their noses a shade of red,” says. Spying a red-nosed reindeer is scientifically possible after all.

Perhaps there is more truth to the reindeer lore than we ever knew.

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!

posted April 12th, 2015 by

Take a Hike

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!


By Anna Holton-Dean


Crisp, cool fall months are the perfect time to enjoy some outdoor activities that were otherwise treacherous in the sweltering summer heat. Hiking is at the top of our fall must-do list, and the best part is many nearby hiking trails allow your dog to come along for the fun. On-leash, of course, it can be the perfect fall activity to enjoy with your pet.

However, before any activity, do your homework, ensuring your pet is ready for a hike. Considerations would include breed type, length and thickness of coat, age and endurance. A smashed face breed will overheat more quickly than a dog with a longer snout, as will a dog with a longer, thicker coat.

“Do check into your breed’s history and ask your veterinarian before taking your dog for a hike,” Nancy Gallimore, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), advises. “I had a guy who took his new shelter/rescue dog for a five-mile run, and the dog collapsed.” Just as a person must work up to that type of distance and endurance, so must a pet. Knowing your pet’s fitness level and limitations is a must.

Gallimore, co-owner of Pooches Place, has been hiking with dogs for over 12 years and training dogs for 20 years (professionally certified for seven years). She and Lawanna Smith, also a CPDT-KA and co-owner of Pooches Place, offer up some expert advice for anyone contemplating hiking with a pet:

Be sure to choose a dog-friendly trail, and do not take your dog to hike a trail if you are unfamiliar with it. This article includes  insight and advice on five area trails which allow dogs.

No matter where you choose to hike, keep your dog on a leash. “Even the best trained dogs may take off after a squirrel or deer,” Gallimore says.

If not hiking locally and traveling to a different region, consider the altitude difference and carry your dog’s vaccination records with you.

Fall temperatures should be pleasant, but always be aware of the temp. “Your dog does not sweat like you do,” Gallimore says. “So carry fresh water for your dog. If he starts to lag behind, stop. Learn the signs of heat exhaustion.”

In relation to fresh water, also do not let your dog drink from ponds or standing/ stagnant water for risk of parasites or bacteria. Also, supervise carefully that he doesn’t eat anything along the trail.

Buy dog-safe sunscreen if your pooch has thin hair and pink skin. Dogs can burn too!

Make sure your dog has flea/tick prevention, and check your dog for fleas/ ticks/stickers/burrs after a hike.

Pay attention to the trail’s surface. Make sure it won’t harm paws, and check the dog’s paws throughout the hike. “You get blisters, so can your dog,” Gallimore says. “Inspect pads and between pads carefully after a hike. If the temps are too hot or too cold, check the trail surface to be sure it’s not going to burn or be too cold on exposed paws.”

Do not hike in wilderness areas at dusk/ after dusk. “This is the time of day coyotes and other predators come out,” Gallimore says. “Your dog may attract the attention of predators.” Furthermore, “know the wildlife you may encounter in the area. Even deer can be aggressive during certain times of year. Raccoons, skunks, etc., can be a threat.”

Carry a first aid kit with you, asking your vet for advice on what to keep in it in case of injury, snake bite or allergic reaction to bug bites, etc.

Always carry your cell phone in case of emergency.

Area Pet-Friendly Hiking Trails

Kent Frates, co-author of “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” suggests Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman and Arcadia Lake Trail near Edmond as dog-friendly hiking trails, in that the terrain and environment should be the most accommodating. These are the best options for hiking newbies, including pets new to hiking too.

Of course, Turkey Mountain in the heart of Tulsa is another good option. Frates cautions it is hilly but should be doable for most dogs. If your dog is up for some hills (no pun intended), he will probably enjoy the hike. Gallimore suggests early morning hikes to avoid bikers on Turkey Mountain who can appear in a flash, and you will have to quickly move your dog out of harm’s way.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Indiahoma also welcomes pets on-leash, but the terrain is a little rough. For dogs with hiking experience and endurance, this trail would offer a welcomed challenge.

The Trail at Keystone Lake allows dogs, but the terrain is rocky with some elevation, and you may encounter ticks or chiggers which could be a problem, Frates says. Should you accept this challenge, go prepared with the necessary items and plan.

More Oklahoma hiking trails we should know about? Let us know on our Facebook page or via Twitter @tulsapetsmag. For more hiking tips and info, check out  “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” by Kent Frates and Larry Floyd, available for purchase from

While there are many considerations, hiking can be a great outdoor activity for you and your dog. A little homework and forethought can go a long way toward creating a new healthy hobby to benefit both person and pet.

Pet Research of 2013

posted October 13th, 2014 by


From Funny, To Sweet, To Informational, Here Are 10 Of The Best Studies Of The Year

by Anna Holton-Dean

Our world changes so fast these days. One thing that doesn’t change is the constant advance of knowledge. Researchers gain new information all the time, and that includes news about the animals around us. With a myriad of studies out there, it would be hard to consume all the information.

Thanks to, we have a handy list of the top 10 most interesting animal studies of 2013. We are happy to discover several of these studies reveal even more incentives to spay and neuter, and adopt rather than buy.

Lethal Cats

A recent Smithsonian study found domestic cats kill 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice and other small mammals every year in the U.S. alone. This is not an isolated problem as other countries conducted similar studies with similar results.

The PawNation report says the result could be dire for the ecosystem. This only furthers our belief at TulsaPets that spaying and neutering is crucial for even more reasons than saving the lives of cats and dogs as the problems of overpopulation spill over to other areas.

Big Dogs, Shorter Lives

As a single species bred by humans over centuries into countless sizes   and shapes, researchers have been able to study how size affects life expectancy. They have learned that larger dogs age faster than their smaller counterparts. In the PawNation article, Cornelia Kraus, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Gottingen in Germany, says of larger breeds, “Their lives seem to unwind in fast motion.”

The supporting research shows that about one month of life expectancy      is lost for every 4.4 pounds a dog weighs. For example, “a 155-pound Great Dane has a life expectancy of about 7 years, while a 9-pound Poodle can live up to about 14 years.

“In addition to faster aging, bigger dogs also seem more susceptible to developing cancer than small dogs. This may correlate with size, because cancer is a disease of cell growth.”

So should you factor this information into your decision when adopting a new dog? Can you handle knowing your larger pooch may not be around in 10 years but a smaller choice more likely will be?

Dr. Pat Grogan with VCA Woodland East Animal Hospital in Tulsa says there’s even more to consider than length of years, but what is involved during those years. “It is true that the giant breeds of dogs have shorter life expectancies, but there are other factors that people should consider before getting a very large dog,” he says.

“Large dogs are more expensive to care for—they eat more, require larger beds and kennels, have higher preventive medication costs, and are more expensive when they become ill.  Also, large dogs, if destructive or aggressive can do more harm to property and people.  Having said this, I love large dogs; however, I don’t recommend they be the first dog you ever own.”

Spay/Neuter, Longer Life

It’s no secret spaying and neutering controls the pet population, but research from the University of Georgia shows the procedures can prolong dogs’ lives.

“Researchers looked at a sample of 40,139 death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984–2004,” PawNation says. “They determined that the average age of death for dogs that had not been spayed or neutered was 7.9 years versus 9.4 years for dogs that had  been sterilized.”

Grogan says this research certainly falls in line with what is known about neutered versus intact dogs and can be attributed to a number of causes. “We know that un-neutered male dogs are hit by cars in disproportionately high numbers each year,” he says. “Intact male dogs are much more likely to roam from home, and that does not always work out well for them.

“Also, both male and female dogs can contract life-threatening diseases involving their reproductive organs, including infections and cancer. Female dogs that are spayed before their first heat cycle have been shown to have a significantly reduced risk of mammary cancer, and male dogs that are neutered rarely have disease in their prostate gland.”

Pet Store Puppy Problems

A University of Pennsylvania study found that pet-store puppies are more likely to display behavioral problems later in life. Many factors contribute  to this, including the fact that their mothers are under stress when breeding in puppy mills, PawNation reports. Additional concerns include unusual aggression toward their owners and other dogs, as well as an increased chance of running away.

It is relevant to note “neutered pet-store dogs were more well-behaved, but still more aggressive than neutered non-commercial dogs.” This study serves as more reason to continue doing what we already know is best—adopting shelter pets. Breeding is a no-win situation.

Grogan says a puppy’s key socialization period is between 6 and 16 weeks of age—a time when puppies need a “broad range of good experiences with other pets and people.”

“Puppy mills and pet stores are not the ideal settings for pups in this age range, and truthfully some are more affected by bad circumstances than others,” he says. “I think that all pups deserve a loving home no matter from where they come.”

For anyone who finds this an area of concern, Grogan says seek advice from your veterinarian who can help assess the temperament of the puppy you may be considering before taking it into your home.

Cautions of Homemade Dog Food

In an effort to eat healthier, less processed whole foods, many folks have taken to making more foods at home, and that can include making food for their pets. However, research from the University of California Davis says homemade dog food may be worse than conventional as “it’s almost never nutritionally complete.”

Particularly, the nutritional deficiencies include choline, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E, “which could result in significant health problems such as immune dysfunction, accumulation of fat in the liver and musculoskeletal abnormalities,” PawNation reports.

Emotional Creatures

“Dogs use specific facial expressions   to show emotion” a Japanese study published in the journal Behavioural Processes says. Each dog in the study displayed different facial expressions in reaction to a series of objects including its owner, a stranger, a toy and a non-desirable object.

The study found “the dogs raised their eyebrows in response to seeing a person, but raised them higher, especially their left eyebrows, when seeing their owners. When seeing a stranger, the dogs moved their left ears back slightly. Researchers believe the dogs’ facial movements reflect activity in the parts of the brain that control emotion,” PawNation says.

This serves as a good reminder to care for your pets responsibly. They aren’t objects, but living creatures with real emotions; research proves it.

Birds Sense Speed Limits

Ever wonder how birds escape near collisions with vehicles just in the nick of time? New research shows birds  are able to sense and react to posted speed limits. Birds reacted to average speed limits, not actual speed limits, PawNation says.

Pierre Legagneux, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, found the birds “associate road sections with speed limits as a way to assess collision risk. So strictly enforcing speed limits could reduce bird collisions.”

Being a bird brain might not be such a bad thing after all.

Cat Eyes

A general assumption may be that cats have an advantage over us humans regarding sight since they can see well in the dark. However, Photographer Nickolay Lamm produced a series of photographs displaying how cats see differently than humans—not better.

Cats see fewer colors, mostly in blues and yellows, and what they see appears washed out by comparison. “What cats may lack in color perception and focus compared to humans, they make up for with the ability to sense movement in darkness, a larger field of vision (200 degrees compared to our 180 degrees) and greater peripheral vision (30 degrees on each side compared to our 20),” PawNation writes.

Cats Domesticated 5,000 Years Ago

Researchers have discovered what they believe to be the earliest evidence of cat domestication unearthed from a Chinese village, dating back to the Stone Age. Bones, appearing to be more than 5,000 years old, found in the Central China village demonstrated a close interaction between cats and the people of the area. It’s believed they were the pets of farmers.

Yes, Your Cat Is Ignoring You… But He Still Loves You

A University of Tokyo study confirmed that cats understand us when we call but choose to ignore us most of the time. The study published in Animal Cognition observed 20 cats for eight months, responding to a series of audio recordings of five people calling each cat’s name.

“Very few of the cats could muster  up the gumption to respond at all to  being called,” PawNation reports. “Interestingly, the cats did display stronger responses when hearing their owners’ voices, which indicates they  do recognize the difference and per-haps have special relationships with their owners, but they still didn’t bother moving either way.”

The researchers commented in their study that the “cat-owner relationship is in direct contrast to that with dogs.”

The saying is true that cats are not small dogs, Grogan says. “Their solitary nature sometimes makes them seem stand-offish, but many cat owners will tell you of the great affection that their feline friends demonstrate. It’s easy for us to anthropomorphize the way that our cats or dogs interact, but by learning from behaviorists how they see their world, we can really appreciate the wonder that is the cat.”


posted January 25th, 2014 by

tips to ensure your pet’s tootsies stay healthy all season long

by Anna Holton-Dean

Paw CareThe thought of going for a barefoot walk on an icy Oklahoma day sounds painful, right? The same goes for your pet’s paws.

Kristie Plunkett, DVM and owner of Mobile Veterinary Hospital of Tulsa, says not only can icy weather be painful for your pet, but it can be dangerous. Here she shares some winter paw care tips to keep your pet’s feet warm, cozy and, most importantly, healthy during the colder temps.

Winter is tough on paws for numerous reasons including chemical burns from de-icers, frostbite, and dry, cracked pads from dry weather. Dr. Plunkett further explains why these are major concerns.

“De-icers contain chemicals and/or salt that can be very irritating to the skin and foot pads, as well as toxic if ingested,” she says. “I have seen numerous cases involving de-icer chemical burns on the foot pads of cats and dogs, along with burns in the pets’ mouths and down the esophagus.

“You can use all-natural de-icers, but most people use those containing chemicals. Pet owners can help prevent these burns and ingestion of chemicals by cleaning off their pets’ feet after every trip outside. If you think your pet has walked in de-icer, make sure they do not lick their feet until you get them cleaned off. If ingestion has occurred, wipe his or her mouth out with a wet cloth and take [him or her] to your veterinarian as soon as possible.”

While nature provides hairy feet to some pets for protection against ice, the hair can allow buildup of little ice balls between the toes, causing the pet to chew at his feet, possibly ingesting the de-icer through which he has walked.

Dr. Plunkett cautions this can lead to inflammation around the toes. “This can be prevented by trimming the hair around the toes,” she says. “I do not recommend shaving between the toes, as this usually leads to nicks and razor burn.”

Another area of concern is frostbite because it can occur in a matter of minutes, especially if the pet’s immune system is compromised (juvenile, geriatric, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetic, etc.), Dr. Plunkett says. “Frostbite can lead to loss of blood supply and nerve function to the affected areas, resulting in loss of toes or permanent damage to the pads.”

Most cases occur on the feet, but she says she has seen it on mammary glands and scrotums as the tissue is quite thin and adheres easily to the ice.

“Indoor pets do not develop the same winter coat as an outdoor pet,” Dr. Plunkett says. “Therefore they cannot tolerate the cold for nearly as long. Most indoor pets can stay outside just long enough to do their business. If you, or they, want to stay out longer, make sure they are bundled up with a pet jacket/coat and booties.”

Next up is dry, cracked pads due to winter air and walking on cold surfaces. Dr. Plunkett says dry skin can become inflamed at the least, but of greater importance is that it can lead to a secondary infection at the site of the chapped, cracked skin.

“Vaseline, vitamin E oil and lotion can be massaged into the foot pads to keep them moist and healthy,” she says. If your pet will not allow anything to be applied to his or her feet, Dr. Plunkett recommends giving an oral form as it will still provide moisture to the skin and pads.

While these concerns can be alarming, take heart, pet lovers. As Dr. Plunkett already mentioned, most dangers to pets’ paws during winter can be prevented by fitting them with booties that will protect their feet from chemicals, ice and extreme temperatures.

“Pets don’t usually care for the booties when first put on,” Dr. Plunkett says, “but after a while of walking around like they are stuck on sticky trap for a short amount of time, they get used to them.” 

Watson Does Disney

posted July 15th, 2013 by

by Anna Holton-Dean

Vacation season is in full swing. While some families board their pets at that time, it’s a perfect opportunity for service dogs in training to experience unique situations and places. Watson, a service dog in training for Therapetics, was lucky enough to travel with his trainer and temporary mom, Casey Rose Largent, and her family to the happiest place on earth—Disneyland.

Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma Director Susan Hartman and full-time Instructor Donna Willis knew the trip would provide excellent training for Watson. “Everything from the flight to California, the hotel stay and the Disneyland parks were all new experiences for him, and thus, great exposure for him too,” Largent says.

The trip did prove to be full of new experiences for 2-year-old Watson, starting the moment they reached airport security. “Getting through security was a bit challenging,” Largent says.

“I had to take everything off of him—backpack, vest, harness, leash and collar. Then he had to walk through the metal detector by himself. When you factor in the fact that I had to remove my shoes and put my carry-ons and his gear through the conveyor and have him walk through the metal detector before I could go through it, it was a bit hectic and time consuming.”

But with his laid back personality, Watson wasn’t too fazed—probably less than most human flyers would be after a run in with TSA.

“He did great on the plane ride,” Largent says. “We rode on the first row of the plane, so he had plenty of room to stretch out. When we first boarded, he wanted to look out the window. He watched the ground crew load luggage onto the plane. When we took off, he laid on the floor and slept. He did pretty well for a first-time flyer.”

Once reaching California, what better place could one go to experience sensory overload than Disneyland? Watson’s response to the house of mouse was in keeping with his typical personality. “There were lots of new sights, smells and sounds at Disneyland,” Largent says. “There were lots of kids, food and rides everywhere, but he didn’t seem bothered or nervous at all. He’s a pretty easygoing boy, so not much gets to him. He stuck close to me though as it was a little crowded.”

Disneyland even has a list of service dog approved rides, so Watson was able to enjoy Haunted Mansion, Alice in Wonderland, Buzz Lightyear As- tro Blaster and Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom. At California Adventure park, he rode Toy Story Mania, Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and he watched Muppet Vision 3D. And Largent says he had an obvious favorite.

“He really seemed fascinated by the Jungle Cruise, a riverboat ride featuring animatronic animals,” she says. “The animals all move and make noises, and that seemed to really get his attention. He sat in the seat next to me and watched as animatronic hippos, elephants, lions and monkeys moved around and made lots of noise.”

The other rides didn’t elicit much excitement or interest from Watson, which is actually a sign that his Therapetics’ training is working well. “Since he’s been exposed to everything since he was 8 weeks old, not much gets to him, including the rides. He doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to his surroundings; mostly, he pays attention to me, which is what he is trained to do,” Largent says.

While he may not have gotten any iconic Disney treats like the Mickey ice cream bar—he ate his usual treats—he did get his own pair of Mickey ears, which he wore long enough to humor Largent for a photo.

Watson seemed to take the whole trip in stride, but how did others react to the pooch in the parks? Largent says cast members (the term for Disney park employees) and park guests were all very accommodating and complimentary. While the average Joe can’t bring an average Fido (aka: non-service dog) into the park, Disney welcomes true service dogs.

“Watson got lots of compliments on how handsome he is,” she says. “Cast members are pretty used to seeing service dogs. There were several other service dogs there on the days we visited. I think people were surprised the most to see him actually riding the rides with me.”

Watson even turned out to be an attraction himself for characters like Alice, the Mad Hatter, Donald Duck, Cruella De Vil, Pinocchio and Peter Pan who all came over for a photo. “They loved him and couldn’t wait to have their photos taken with him,” Largent says. “Those costumed characters didn’t bother Watson either. In fact, there’s a photo of him giving Pinocchio a kiss.”

In addition to Disneyland, Watson checked out other destinations like Anaheim Garden Walk and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. So far, it has been his biggest public experience, but Largent says for Watson, it’s probably just another outing.

However, it is one more step toward his certification. Next fall, he will take his Public Access Test designed to ensure he is stable, well-behaved, and unobtrusive to the public, along with a skills test. He will then be matched with a qualified applicant to serve as his or her mobility assistance dog.

Largent says she gets a little emotional imagining the day she has to part with Watson, but their time at Disneyland is one more memory the pair will always have to cherish.

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