Judge looks like a baby black bear and drools like Hooch. One or two days a week, this 180-pound behemoth goes to work spreading his own special brand of therapy to the unsure, the hurting and the withdrawn.
Judge is a full-blooded Newfoundland, a strikingly large working dog, with a sweet, soulful temperament.
On the day we met at a middle school in Maryville, Tennessee, Judge was visiting 8th graders studying Jack London’s Call of the Wild. His mission was simple: Be himself. These kids hadn’t met a Newfie—the same breed as Curly in the novel—and their teachers thought they should meet one in the flesh.
As soon as Judge trudged into the classroom, panting heavily due to the heat, the students sat up in at their desks. Their eyes lit up. They gushed.
“Wow. Is that a bear?”
“He’s so cute.”
“Well, he just made my day.”
Just another day in the life of Judge.
Therapy Vs Service Dogs
Unlike service dogs trained to work or perform tasks for their owners, therapy dogs, like Judge, provide psychological or physiological therapy to anyone needing comfort.
Although this gentle giant knows how to execute a water rescue and pull carts—two jobs the breed is known for—his special talent lies in therapy, which is good. His owner, Beth Boring, works for the Maryville Public School System’s special-education department, and helping special-needs students is her passion.
Since getting his certification as a therapy dog, signified by the red bandana Beth fastens around his large neck, Judge has visited nursing homes, cancer-treatment centers, and schools.
“He’s so easy around children,” Beth said. “I love that he’s a pet, but he’s really more than that.”
Judge and His Therapy
Repeatedly, Judge has proven his ability to embolden the withdrawn. With one hand on a book and the other on Judge, low-level readers will lose their insecurities as they confidently read aloud. “A dog doesn’t ask questions or correct mistakes,” Beth explained.
One student, an autistic girl named Khloe, also benefited from her therapeutic time with Judge, she added.
“If her teachers got a one-word answer from her, they felt like they’d accomplished something,” said Beth, who is now writing a book about the experience when not training her Newfie puppy, Rowdy, or taking Judge out to minister to others.
“When Khloe met Judge, she became a chatterbox. She’d give him commands to sit, stand, speak, you know, basic obedience, and he’d obey. He opened a whole new world for her. It empowered her.”
An especially poignant moment happened at a local nursing home once, Beth recalled. When she and Judge arrived, Beth found an elderly woman sitting in her wheelchair alone in her room, staring blankly at a television set. Beth tried talking to her twice, but she didn’t respond.
“I turned and walked away. When I got to the doorway, it occurred to me I hadn’t given Judge a chance to interact. I did something I’ve never done before,” she said. “I took the chance of something going horribly wrong and lifted her hand and placed it on Judge’s head. This is Judge. He wants you to know he loves you.”
A smile of pure joy spread across the woman’s face as tears started flowing. Beth never saw the woman again, but she’ll never forget the experience. “I couldn’t reach her, but Judge did.”
Back at School
After his initial howdy-do in the classroom, Beth escorted Judge to the corridor. He plopped down on the floor and rested his face on his paws. Saliva dripped from his mouth as students took turns petting his thick fur. Beth stood to the side and fielded questions.
“How much does he eat?
Four cups a day.
“What does he eat?
Green beans and meat. Pizza is his favorite, given only as a treat. As for kibble, not a chance. “Kibble is the chicken nuggets of the dog food world.” Beth was emphatic on that point.
“How long does it take to dry his hair?”
One hour with a special hair dryer.
“Where does he sleep?”
In the hallway in front of his fan.
And on it went. When the time came to meet the next class, Beth urged Judge to stand. He obeyed and lumbered over to the next classroom door.
Why do you do this Beth?
“Newfies aren’t a common breed,” she said. “They aren’t for everyone. They shed and they drool, but we love them. And I get to share him with the world. When I put his red bandana on, he knows what he’s going to do.”
Follow Judge on Social Media
Interested in learning more about the inimitable Judge? Follow him on Facebook and Instagram. He likes the attention.
Nothing makes people of all races and all needs feel like an Animal Does. Great Story.
That’s the truth. Amazing creatures…I could be biased, though. I am an unabashed dog lover.
Thanks for writing about Judge & his many gifts. It’s truly an honor sharing him with the world and I feel blessed each day we have together, work or play.
You are welcome to come along any time.
I hope this will inspire others to seek out an agency to work with and share their pets with the world.
Great article, Lori, on a very special dog, his amazing owner, and his ministry.
Thanks, Kelly. BTW: I met a woman the other day who wanted to give me her copy of your book! I told her to keep it. I had my own copy. Pretty cool.
Beth, do you mind if I provide your number to a man who’s in charge of lining up speakers for weekly civic club meetings? I think you’d be a natural! Thanks for letting me write about Judge.
I don’t mind, Lori
Yet another inspirational story!
Thanks, Theresa. This one was super fun to write.
Wonderful article! Wonderful dog and owner! Thank you for your writing!
Thank you, Sandra. Beth is great. I truly admire her passion. Take care.
As the owner of a great service dog, Tobi, I know first hand how these amazing 4 legged creatures can touch your heart and get you out of your “rabbit hole”. Beth offers a beautiful option to special needs children to connect and express themselves. Fantastic!
He’s a behemoth. Can’t wait to meet Tobi.