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'Poodle' power


A local therapy dog provides inspiration for a book that helps kids make better decisions.

Christina Nihira May 15th, 2013

Judy Savage was babysitting at her Oklahoma City home last spring when a conflict erupted between her grandchildren.

It prompted her to start thinking about ways to inspire good behavior.

As a result, she looked to her real-life dog, Diana Rossi, for inspiration. “‘Let’s get her paw print of approval,’” Savage recalled telling the children. “I had a paw print [stamp in my desk] and stamped their little hands that night.”

That evening, she thought more about how the “approval poodle” could teach kids valuable lessons regarding behavior and etiquette.

Soon after, Rossi the Approval Poodle was born.

“The message I want to give children is that everyone is important.

That’s why I wrote the book,” said Savage, a landscape designer.

While most children’s books utilize illustrations, Savage wanted hers to feature photos of Rossi interacting with kids in local settings.

“Children like to see photographs of other children and animals,” said Savage. “[Rossi’s] hairdo is unbelievable and has become her signature look.”

The book features Rossi and friends demonstrating the rules she lives by and approves:

—Respect.

—Obey.

—Be safe.

—Be social.

—Be important.

Rossi, the 6-year-old standard black poodle, has been a therapy dog since she was 18 months old. Savage, a certified handler, volunteers through the Human Animal Link of Oklahoma Foundation.

In addition to schools, Rossi has made countless visits to branches of the Metropolitan Library System, where children read to her as part of the Reading to Dogs program.

Rossi also spends time at local medical centers. From the intensive care unit to the pediatrics floor, she is at ease visiting hospital patients.

“Rossi and I have a front-row seat at many miracles,” Savage said. “I just hold the leash, and she makes the magic happen.”

 
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