Rural Missouri - January 2011 - (Page 26)
Meet Yorik, one tricky dog
This therapy canine takes his show on the road across rural Missouri
he agile player picks up the ball, circles and trots toward the basket. Swoosh! The miniature basketball goes into the hoop, and Yorik turns to his adoring young audience who clap with delight at his feat. Yorik is a 5-year-old Norwegian elkhound, one of Jon and Marilyn Slaton’s four certified therapy dogs. Yorik not only loves visiting nursing homes, scout troops and daycare centers, but he also loves doing tricks, such as dropping basketballs into a toy hoop, shortened just for him. “He eats up the attention, but he’s always ready to move on to his next trick,” Marilyn Slaton says. In 1998, the Slatons, who live in Mansfield, heard about a therapy dog evaluation in St. Louis and decided to take two of their first Norwegian elkhounds, Wegian and Loki, to see if they could pass the test — and they did. So the couple began an outreach program to nursing homes. Once they saw the response of the people, they knew what they were doing was important. As part of their visits, the Slatons would show how their dogs could “play” the piano, and the residents just ate it up. “We had a little toy upright piano and had taught each of the dogs to play with their paws as an ice breaker,” says Marilyn. “Even if someone didn’t want to touch the dog, a dog playing the piano usually got a response from them.” As their dogs grew older and retired, the couple wanted to add another canine to their merry band. So in 2005, they got Yorik. The Slatons had big plans for the little pup. “We knew we wanted a dog who did more tricks, because that always gets reactions from people of all ages,” says Marilyn. Patiently, Marilyn began to work with young Yorik, whose official pedigree name is Ancient Ridge Magic Arrow. She used a clicker/reward method of training that the pup took to right away. “To a clicker-trained dog, the ‘click’ sound means ‘I did something right and now I get food,’” says Marilyn. “It doesn’t take the dog long to realize that a click is associated with food — and since Yorik was, and still is, a food hound, it’s a training method that works great with him.” While elkhounds often are perceived as hard to train, Yorik wasn’t, according to Marilyn. Many of the tricks he performs are based on simple things such as retrieving, shaking and pulling. Marilyn says Yorik loved to learn tricks from the very beginning. “I always make learning fun and positive for him. We train all day long, but not in formal sessions,” she says. “Yorik just works for what he wants, which in his case, happens to be food. A chicken nugget cut into 6 to 8 bites buys a lot of training.” Yorik was only 8 months old when he performed his “Tricky Dog Show” at the Mansfield Christian Church vacation Bible school. At that time, his repertoire included 30 tricks. “He knows more than 80 tricks and is still learning,” says Marilyn, a member of Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative, who adds Yorik is also a certified therapy dog and holds four AKC obedience titles. “Many of the nursing home residents see Jon and me and remember our faces, but they don’t remember our names,” she says, “but you can bet they know his name.” Yorik’s trick list includes jumping through hoops, answering phones, getting a tissue for someone who sneezes, picking out a specific toy from a group of toys, playing ring toss, solving a math problem and taking a bow, to name a few. “I think the hardest trick he does is to stack small
by Heather Berry firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: Marilyn Slaton and Yorik visit Fred Seda, a resident of Rocky Ridge Manor Nursing Home in Mansfield. Below left: Yorik loves posing for the camera. Below right: One of Yorik’s favorite tricks is playing basketball.
bowls,” says Jon. “They’re not round, so Yorik knows he has to line them up just right for them to fit into each other.” Mansfield Yorik has so many • props for his tricks that the Slatons recently applied for and received one of several Operation Round Up grants from Se-Ma-No Electric Cooperative. The couple purchased a small trailer for all of “The Tricky Dog Show” equipment they haul across Missouri. While Yorik is excited to do tricks, he’s completely docile when visiting the nursing home residents. “We’ve had staff tell us that patients who normally stay in their rooms all the time insist on coming to see Yorik when he visits,” Marilyn says. Both retired, Jon and Marilyn take Yorik on the road an average of eight to 10 times each month and have driven as far as 2-1/2 hours away for a per-
formance or nursing home visit. The couple doesn’t charge for the shows or visits, but they appreciate the donations they receive for fuel. Future plans include adding 3-year-old Norwegian elkhound, Majik, to shows with Yorik. They’re currently training together and the Slatons hope to have the duos show on the road by spring. While Yorik learns new tricks, he’s also learned how to use an old trick to his advantage at home. “He’s the master of bartering,” Marilyn says. “He’ll pick up a pen on the floor or the dish towel off the kitchen counter to trade for a treat,” says Marilyn. Marilyn recalls one evening when Yorik came to her with a business card and handed it to her, in hopes of getting an edible reward. “The card read, ‘Purebreed Rescue,’” she says, then laughs. “I looked at him and said, ‘What? Do you think you need rescued or something?’” You may reach the Slatons at email@example.com or by calling 417-349-1438.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - January 2011
Rural Missouri - January 2011
Doing Wood Right
Out of the Way Eats
Huntin’ With Hawks
Hearth and Home
Billards Meets Bowling
Getting $mart in the New Year
Meet Yorik, One Tricky Dog
Rural Missouri - January 2011
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