Our four-legged volunteers are always ready to lend a paw. They are Beacon’s pet therapy dogs. Sixteen specially trained and certified pups can be found making the rounds with their handlers, comforting patients who miss their own dog and bringing smiles to associates at Memorial and Elkhart General. You will meet our tail-wagging teams in the weeks ahead during our special “Dog Days of Summer” series.

Dog’s Name: Howie
Age: 8 years
Breed: Beagle mixed with Lab and others
Handler: Rick Nimtz
Home: Granger

How long have you been a therapy dog? A little more than a year. Rick and I passed the therapy dog certification in May 2016. When we were done, I got lots of treats. Do you have any extra treats you could give me?

“The best part of my job is…” Getting treats after doing a trick. I also like meeting people and jumping up on beds.

Describe your personality: Happy. Curious. Will work for treats.

What tricks do you know? High five. Shake hands. Sit. Full attention, which some people call sitting pretty. Lie down. Army crawl. Take a nap. I can also stare at a treat and leave it until I hear “OK.” When I walk outside or in the hospital and Rick says to turn left or go straight, I go the correct way. Most of the time I know the difference between Coke and Pepsi. I’m also pretty good at catching popcorn on the fly. Do I get a treat for answering this question?

Favorite human food? Most of them, really. There was this time when I grabbed an entire hot dog and bun from Rick’s hand when he wasn’t looking. Don’t tell him though, because he doesn’t like to be reminded that happened. Sardines are very tasty, too.

Favorite toy? Stuffed toys are the best. I have a stuffed snowman I take to bed with me. Some of my stuffed toys need to have the stuffing torn out of them right away. Others last a long time. Sometimes I get toys with treats inside. Hint, hint.

Favorite TV show? Perry Mason. I like it because I get popcorn treats when it’s on.

Biggest pet peeve? I really don’t like that nasty smelling stuff Rick puts on my back once a month. He says it is the medicine to keep me from getting fleas and heartworms. I’m not sure if I believe him, but I get good treats when he does it. Do you have any treats for me?

Who’s your hero and why? Piney squirrels. They are fast. I wish I was that fast and could climb trees. I’ve never caught a piney squirrel in all my eight years. I like birds too. Did you know they can jump off the ground and disappear in the air? I wish I could do that.

Car rides or walks? Both are fun, but when I walk I get to use my nose. A lot. When I walk I always find treats on the ground. Are there in your pocket you can give me?

Rawhide or pig’s ear? I’ve never eaten a pig’s ear, are they good? Rawhide is a really tasty treat. Do you have any rawhide I could have? How about a pig’s ear?

“I get so excited when my owner says…” I don’t know if I can say these out loud without getting excited, but I will try… Squirrel. Chipmunk. Rabbit. Whew, I’m OK. (Deep breaths) By the way, Rick thought he was being clever when he started saying Tree Rat. It didn’t take very long for me to figure out he meant squirrel. Hey, about those treats – If I sit pretty will you give me some?

“I will never forget the time when I…” Chased a skunk. For some reason, Rick doesn’t like me playing with them. They aren’t so bad except for the stuff I get on my face when I try to play with them. Then after we get home, I have to stay outside. When I come in, I have to go straight into the bathtub. It’s OK though because I get treats when I take a bath.

How would you describe your perfect day? Wake someone up by licking their face so they can fix me breakfast. Go outside. Come in and search for the “hidden” treat. Sleep. Get scratches and pets. Treats. Chase animals outside. Treats. Sleep. Chase rabbits. Sleep. Treats. Supper. Treats. Lay in the grass waiting for more rabbits. More scratches and petting. Watch Perry Mason and eat popcorn treats. Sleep.

If you could talk, what advice would you give the patients you see? Be happy in the immediate moment. You are in the hospital getting fixed up and won’t be sick. Look at me, I make the best of a situation. Did you know I was rescued twice? Imagine if I never got rescued. I wouldn’t be here to do all these tricks. To get all these treats. And to make you smile.