Vivian, Lil Abner and Stella are three amazing dogs who represent therapy dogs all over the country.
Lil Abner and Stella weigh over 100 pounds each but will lay quietly on the floor while a toddler crawls all over them.
Vivian, a pit bull mix, proves every day how unfair the "dangerous dog" stereotype is. She will sit to be petted and will snuggle with any kid who approaches.
These three dogs visit the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald Houses weekly. Kids who are visiting Philadelphia-area hospitals for medical treatment can stay at the Ronald McDonald House for any length of time.
Abner and Stella are owned by Steven and Donna Kramer of Langhorne. They are Dogues de Bordeaux, which were seen in the 1980s film Turner and Hooch.
Vivian was adopted by Michelle Pich, a veterinary grief counselor at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. Pich adopted Vivian out of a prison program called "New Leash on Life". Prior to her adoption, Vivian was cared for and trained by a group of soon-to-be-released prison inmates.
A local group called DART (Dogs Are Readers Too) consists of certified therapy dogs and their handlers who visit schools and libraries so that kids can read to a dog, who will sit and patiently listen. The DART program - as well as some local kids - took part in a reading with actor John O'Hurley last weekend.
What is a Therapy Dog?
Trained and certified by Therapy Dogs International, a therapy dog is allowed to visit schools and hospitals. Therapy dogs must be well-behaved and pass the American Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test as well as a series of temperament tests.
You can visit TDI's website to learn more about therapy dogs and find a trainer or evaluator in your area.