Livingston County couple train therapy dogs

Lisa Roose-Church
Livingston Daily Press & Argus

Tyrone Township — A middle-aged man who had not spoken in days after falling ill reached out his arm, patted Parker, a golden retriever, on the head and whispered, “Dog.”

A very ill elderly woman who also had not spoken in a few days leaned closer to Parker and softly sang “Happy Birthday” to the dog, who was decked out in his birthday bandana as he visited patients.

Those two incidents are examples of the positive attributes therapy dogs like Parker, who is trained at Paradise Dogs Training LLC in Tyrone Township, can bring to someone’s life — and it’s one of the main reasons the company’s owners, Lori and Jack Grigg, spend their days training service dogs.

“It’s been a rewarding job,” Jack Grigg said. “We’ve worked with people who have previously not been able to leave the house until they get an assistance dog. We trained an assistance dog for a woman who is a nurse and … she had a hard time leaving her work station because of mobility issues.

“The day she walked around the hospital with the dog, she was in tears because she could leave her work station,” he added.

The couple train assistance dogs for every disability except blindness.

Their dogs can sniff out bed bugs and determine when a diabetic patient’s sugar levels are too low or too high. The dogs are also trained to assist people with physical challenges, such as cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries, and emotional or mental needs like post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jack Grigg said about one-third of their business is bed bug-detecting dogs, one-third assistance dogs and one-third therapy dogs who are trained specifically for service in hospitals or schools. Some of their dogs work at St. John’s Providence Hospital in Novi.

Lori Grigg said clients complete an application and then Paradise Dogs finds a dog that fits that client’s needs.

They work with breeders in Ohio and Nebraska and “pay top dollar” for puppies that are genetically fit and healthy. They also purchase puppies from a breeder in the Clarkston area and are always looking for volunteers to foster a puppy for about 12 months to 14 months. After that, the puppies are returned to Paradise Dogs for training and placement.

Melissa Davert said a Paradise Dog has been a godsend for her daughter, Michaela, a 16-year-old who has brittle bones.

Michaela, who is about 2 feet 6 inches tall and uses a wheelchair, has had difficulty doing some things on her own. Since getting her assistance dog, Chloe, the teen has gained self-confidence and can do more things without assistance from her parents, Davert said.

Davert said many people take for granted the little tasks that can be threatening to her, such as picking up a dropped item or opening a door. If she does those tasks, she runs the risk of breaking a bone, but with Chloe doing those daily skills for her, Michaela is given freedom.

“It’s an absolutely amazing gift,” Michaela said. “It makes me more independent and keeps me a lot safer.”