Every Wednesday, the McPherson Public Library will have a patron who’s a little hairier than the rest.

Every Wednesday, the McPherson Public Library will have a patron who’s a little hairier than the rest.
Callie, a therapy dog, and her owner, Mary Jo Staab, will be at the library from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesdays during the summer. On Wednesday, she gave a presentation about what Callie and other therapy dogs do and how they help others.
Staab said she purchased Callie several years ago and taught her the basics, such as house training. Then, both she and Callie were trained through CARES, or Canine Assistance, Rehabilitation, Education and Services, to be a therapy dog team.
For two months, Callie learned to obey commands and provide comfort to others. Callie’s training included tests, such as obeying the ‘stay’ command in crowded areas and resisting distractions.
Staab said CARES has placed or trained 1,200 dogs since 1994 in 37 states and five countries. She said CARES also has been instrumental in ensuring therapy dogs are treated like other disability support dogs.
“The CARES organization really pushed having therapy dogs included with disability dogs,” she said. “She has the same rights as seeing or hearing dogs. If we’re working and go to a store, she has full access.”
CARES also trains service dogs, such as seizure alert, seeing and hearing dogs, as well as emergency response dogs, such as police, search and rescue and bomb alert dogs.
Staab said she tries to be sensitive to business owners who might be uneasy having a dog on the premises.
Staab said Callie’s main job is to help her at her job as a school psychologist. Staab said Callie has helped students calm down and feel better as well as overcome fears. She said one student ate lunch with her once a week while trying to overcome a fear of dogs.
“A lot of what she ends up doing is making people feel good,” Staab said.
Staab said teaming up with a therapy dog requires a degree of humility, as people will often notice the dog before the person.
“When you have a therapy dog, you have to leave your ego at the door, because you’re a nonentity,” Staab said. “People will say, ‘Hi Callie!,’ and then a few minutes later, ‘Oh, hi, Mary Jo.’”
Staab said working with Callie is an experience she will never let go of.
“I cannot imagine, after being together this long, giving her up,” Staab said.