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Dogs on call
Hogan, a 1-year-old Aussiedoodle, relaxes near his owner, Deb Krattiger, as she styles hair at ExSalonce Hair Designs last week. Krattiger is in the process of getting Hogan certified to become a therapy dog. To order either of these photos, click here. (Times photos: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Before Deb Krattiger's grandmother died, she was visited by a Great Dane.

The presence of the dog, owned by an employee of the Pleasant View Nursing Home about four years ago, caused the woman's face to light up, Krattiger said.

"That a dog can bring a person so much joy is just incredible," Krattiger said.

Inspired by the effect the dog had on her grandmother, Krattiger is in the process of having her dog, a 1-year-old Aussiedoodle named Hogan, certified as a therapy dog for the Wisconsin-based therapy animal organization Dogs on Call.

Dogs on Call works with Pet Partners, an international therapy animal organization, to register and support therapy animals and their handlers. Certifying an animal through Dogs on Call is done through a Pet Partners evaluation, said Todd Trampe, formerly the events director for Dogs on Call and a retired Monroe school teacher who now lives in Brooklyn.

The evaluation requires a written exam for the handler and a practical exam that examines different factors of the animal's behavior - from its obedience, to how it interacts with people, other dogs, crowds and more, said Trampe.

"People ask me "how do we create a therapy dog,' but we don't create anything," Trampe said. "About 80 percent of a therapy dog comes to us."

Trampe, who has worked with Dogs on Call for four years, said he decided to have his 7-year-old black Lab Izzie trained as a therapy dog to give him something to do during his retirement. His wife, a Madison nurse, raised the idea after encountering therapy animals in hospitals.

Izzie passed her evaluation on the first attempt, while Krattiger's dog Hogan failed the exam when he became too excited at the sight of another dog.

"Hogan is still quite young, so they told us not to be discouraged at all," Krattiger said. "I know one person who took five attempts to be certified."

Hogan and Krattiger will re-take the evaluation in the spring, after she gives Hogan more training to focus his attention.

Once a dog is certified, the trainer and animal can visit medical facilities affiliated with Pet Partners - the organization has exclusive animal visiting rights with three Madison hospitals, including the UW Hospital - to allow patients to interact with the animal.

"It's amazing just how much a dog can relieve stress for some people," Krattiger said.

"It's funny how people react to a dog," Trampe said. "Nobody ever says "Todd's here with Izzie.' It's always "Izzie's here!'"

Even a dog uncertified with Pet Partners can visit some facilities, as long as the animal and trainer follow certain guidelines. For example, Hogan has visited with patients of the Monroe Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

"They just love him there," Krattiger said.

Izzie, on the other hand, prefers more physical activity. Fortunately, Dogs on Call works extensively with UW-Madison and its students.

"We visit dorms sometimes, and we'll see freshmen get so happy because they miss their dogs back home," Trampe said.

Dogs on Call also visits libraries and elementary schools for its Read With Me program, which allows children who struggle with reading to read to a dog in a low-pressure environment.

"These kids are very self-conscious about their reading, but you see them at the end of the year with so much more confidence," Trampe said.

Between working with kids, students and patients, Trampe and Izzie usually spend about four to eight hours a week out in the field.

Trampe hopes to have his other dog, a 2-year-old yellow Lab, certified as a therapy dog as well, although the more excitable Lola may be less well-suited for the job.

"It's important to keep in mind that my hopes and dreams aren't necessarily Lola's hopes and dreams," Trampe said.

Krattiger, meanwhile, was optimistic about Hogan's future.

"I'm certain we can pass soon," Krattiger said.