Successful Tails, released last month, is a book about the benefits of therapy dogs.
Although author Patricia Wheeler had been a therapy dog handler for three years with
her dog, Lawrence, the Livermore Lab, she was really struck at how beneficial his work
was one day at the VA. A veteran, who would not leave his room on his own, said to
Wheeler’s dog, Lawrence, that his doctor had told him that he needed to walk to the
nurses’ station each day. As soon as Lawrence heard the word WALK, he was going to
make sure that this veteran walked. And the veteran did, with Lawrence at his side, all
the way to the nurses’ station and back, for the first time.
Wheeler didn’t think much of what happened until she saw the looks on the faces of staff
members. Their jaws were dropped, their eyes were wide open, tears came down their
cheeks, and they had looks of surprise and amazement on their faces. Lawrence seemed
to not only know that this veteran could do the walk, but also how to motivate him to do
it and make sure he did it. This became the first story in Wheeler’s book.
She started collecting stories from other therapy dog handlers and testimonials about
the benefits of the therapy dogs from veterans, residents, students, educators, librarians,
staff, family members, civic leaders, and others. Some veterans wrote poems about the
dogs. Wheeler also started collecting photos of the dogs at work. Congressman Jerry
McNerney wrote the Foreword for the book, and Mayor John Marchand, the Foreword
for the chapter on the VA. These writings and photos are heartwarming and inspirational.
Susy Flory, co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Thunder Dog:
The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground
Zero, writes, “Successful Tails is a heartwarming collection of stories and photos of
therapy dogs at work. I predict you will enjoy getting to know these extraordinary dogs
and the people who love them and, perhaps, even fall in love with them. I know I did.”
Congressman McNerney says, “The stories and testimonials contained in these pages will
open your eyes to the world of therapy dogs and how beneficial they can be for people.
The services that therapy dogs provide are far-reaching and can be life-changing.”
Livermore Mayor John Marchand writes, “The therapy dogs help us to see something
other than just the world around us. They help all of us to see that, in this world, there
is a gentler side. They help our veterans to navigate the dark landscapes, which are the
memories that followed our service men and women home. These therapy dogs offer
a world of uncompromising acceptance and affection, a silent understanding when
someone looks into those big tender eyes.”
The book covers facilities and programs throughout much of the East Bay. Livermore
sites and programs include Camp Arroyo, Camp Erin, Emma C. Smith Elementary
School, Easy Living Care Home (five sites), LARPD’s now closed Friendship Center,
Livermore Manor (formerly Golden Manor, now closed), the Livermore Public Libraries
(Civic Center and Rincon branch), Marylin Avenue Elementary School, Shepherd’s Gate,
and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (PAHCS) Livermore Division.
Pleasanton sites include Alisal School, The Parkview, and the Pleasanton Public Library.
Other sites include CARH in Castro Valley, the Castro Valley Library, the Danville
Library, Merrill Gardens in San Roman, the Orinda Library, and Los Perales Elementary
School in Moraga.
The therapy dogs have also participated in many events which are covered in the book
including numerous Welcome Home Celebrations for our troops in 15 communities
throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties; parades in Livermore and Pleasanton;
concerts in the Sacramento area, San Francisco, and San Ramon; and Veterans Day
ceremonies in Danville and Pleasanton.
The book has over 200 testimonials and more than 350 stories in it. The book also
contains bios and photos of the 51 therapy dogs featured in the book, all certified by
Valley Humane Society, and bios of the 46 handlers.
This book isn’t just for people who want to become therapy dog handlers or staff at
sites and programs that would like to have therapy dogs for those they serve, though both
of these groups will find it useful. This book is for everyone. It is a wonderful book to
read when you are waiting, whether at the doctor’s office, the train station, or the airport.
You can read as little or as much as you want at one time. It makes good bedtime reading,
and, hopefully, you will fall asleep and have beautiful dreams about dogs and the people
Upcoming book signings in the Tri-Valley include—
• Saturday, Nov. 10, 1:00 PM, Cooleykatz, 1959 Second Street, Livermore
• Saturday, Nov. 17, 9:00 AM, Towne Center Books, 555 Main Street, Pleasanton
The book is available from the publisher AuthorHouse (call 1-888-280-7713 or visit
www.authorhouse.com), from local booksellers, and through online retailers. It is
available in soft cover (ISBN 987-1-4772-6474-4), hard cover (ISBN 978-1-4772-6471-
3), or as an electronic book (ISBN 978-1-4772-6475-1). For more information, visit
Wheeler hopes the book sparks interest in therapy dog programs, both for sites and
programs interested in offering therapy dogs for their clients, and for individuals who
might want to be therapy dog handlers. The book is a tribute to man’s best friend and an
unforgettable glimpse into to the lives these dogs have touched. The testimonials and
stories run the gamut of emotions—some will make you laugh and others make you cry.
If you are not already a dog lover, you will be after reading this book.
One quote from the book:
“I wake up every morning wondering which dog is coming today and what time it will
get here.” — a young veteran withering away of cancer