Denali is not your average pooch. He’s an overachieving Italian, cover model, and all around do-gooder; he is a therapy dog. But, a hero never truly works alone. His proud owners, Robert "Bob" Ipcar and Jane Landis, deserve credit in part for their Spinone’s accomplishments as they, too, are exemplars of community service.Bob and Jane with Denali
Bob, a retired cameraman with the United States Army who became a Director of Photography for thirty years in civilian life, and Jane, an English as Second Language teacher and environmentalist at the Audubon Center in Brooklyn, initially tried therapy work with their first dog, a Mastiff named Yuffie. Though the efforts were good-natured, Yuffie's size startled patients and staff upon entrance onto hospital floors from the elevator. Yuffie did, however, receive recognition from The Good Dog Foundation and was appointed their mascot!
Jane, Bob, and Denali at work
After Yuffie's passing, Bob and Jane toyed with the idea of getting another dog. While backstage at the West Minster Dog Show, they were introduced to the Spinoni breed, a non-aggressive, pleasing type of hunting dog, and, as the old adage goes, the rest is history.
Denali, whose temperament is calm and sweet, is definitely in his comfort zone as a therapy dog. “Whether we’re in the physical therapy unit at New York Methodist Hospital, on the palliative care/hospice floor at the Brooklyn VA, or making rounds with nursing home evacuees from hurricane Sandy at our local armory, Denali is hailed on a first name basis, basking in “shout-outs” from patients and staff alike. It’s a precious connection that will always stay with us,” says Bob.
Denali and me!
Upon meeting Denali, I instantly saw what made him special. His willingness to let me pet him, smush his cute face, and talk to him in a baby-like manner (an embarrassing habit I can’t seem to break) made me feel at home with him. Bob and Jane, equally inviting, offered up stories of their dog, including a few memorable awards he received for being an advocate for the community at large.
Denali with hospital staff
Denali volunteers on a weekly basis at NY Methodist Hospital where he visits patients undergoing physical therapy. “The coordinator, Amanda Nable, embraces our presence and encourages Denali and the rest of the therapy dogs who volunteer. There are a great many things happening there because of her,” Bob says. Jane smiles, agreeing with her husband.
Denali's therapy work at the Brooklyn VA Hospital is particularly special for Bob. “It’s a way to give back,” he says with an expression that tells me he is grateful for his days as a soldier.
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Jane informs me that her work with the displaced elderly at Park Slope Armory after hurricane Sandy spawned the idea of bringing Denali to provide comfort for the victims. “After receiving permission from the lead psychiatrist of the operation, Denali visited with the evacuees from Belle Harbor Nursing Home and, boy, were they happy to see him.”
Who could resist that cute chocolate face? Certainly not the publishing industry! Denali posed for the cover of Barron’s Dog Training Bible, by Andrea Arden, and is also featured on several pages throughout the book. He was also featured in the Daily News article, “Furry Docs on Duty.” Though he isn’t in Hollywood, he is most definitely on YouTube. Check out adorable Denali bringing Jane flowers for Mother’s Day. (Dog lovers, consider yourselves warned!)
*If you'd like to read more about dogs (therapy or other), visit my friend Dorri's blog.