Therapy dog has tricks

By Nikki Blankenship -

Beck the therapy dog has helped many but also wins titles for performing tricks, even though he came into the world nothing more than a mutt.

Beck the therapy dog has helped many but also wins titles for performing tricks, even though he came into the world nothing more than a mutt.

Therapy Dog Beck is the Mutt’s Champion.

“Yep, you read that right-he’s a mutt,” said Beck’s owner and trainer Kathi Jo Zornes, of Rarden. “He’s not a purebred nor a designer dog to sugar-coat his existence- he’s a simple little mutt. There’s nothing of value in his genetics that make him any more important than any other mutt in southern Ohio or any other area.”

Zornes explained that when her family first adopted Beck he was part of a litter of free puppies that were being given away. He was very small, and the dog trainer had no special plans for him other than to give him a bit of love.

“When our family took this little guy in and adopted him at 5 ½ weeks old. It was kind-of a joke at first,” Zornes commented. “We laughed as my son Brandon stuffed him in his open jacket and talked about how we were going to react when my husband lost his cool when he got home from work because we brought home this mutt puppy. But, my husband didn’t get upset-we all fell in love with this adorable little hound mix with the soulful eyes. We decided to keep him. His name became Beck – Colonel Charles Beckwith.”

Zornes, who specializes in training German Shepherds, started training dogs in 1999. She explained that at that time there were no dog clubs or trainers in the area to help her, so she started reading and studying on her own.

“I bought books, read the material, then tweaked what I learned from those books into techniques that worked for what I was wanting to teach,” she explained.

She focused on German Shepherds because that breed is her real passion. As she continued to study, she saw a need for a dog club in the area.

“Seeing this need in southern ohio for dog owners, I worked with some other people locally and founded Southern Ohio All Breed Dog Club in November 2009. From there, we began to offer dog training classes twice a year, and had a super -reasonable annual membership fee of $20 for Individuals and $35 for Family members so that people could come and learn to train their dogs,” she stated. “As further incentive to show that the Club is about dog education and not making a profit, our Club voted to make dog training class sessions free for our members in good standing.”

From there, the club expanded and became United Kennel Club licensed. They are now a UKC licensed club, who can also host UKC Conformation shows and Obedience, Rally-O, and Agility trials.

“The Club has also worked with MainStreet Portsmouth to help host Dog Days Out events at Tracy Park in the past, and has been involved in area holiday parades and other activities throughout the community,” Zornes said. “At over 7 years old, Southern Ohio All Breed Dog Club offers dog training classes such as S.T.A.R. Puppy, Basic Obedience, Rally, Conformation 101, and Beginner Agility. The Club has instructors who are all experienced at training and titling dogs, and we work with our students to help them learn how to properly train their dogs. It’s been a very successful endeavor for southern Ohio dog owners. We host dog training classes with the Jefferson/Glendale Senior Center in Lucasville where they allow us to use their shelter house and grounds without charge for our classes, held in Spring and Fall of every year.”

For this trainer to work with little Beck seemed odd at first. He was not a German Shepherd and simply seemed to be an important member of the family. He would prove otherwise, however.

“German Shepherds are very sharply intelligent and usually learn quick. I was very used to that,” Zornes stated. “Beck, being part hound and part English Setter, was very stubborn and took alot of patience to train. I had to harness his natural comical ways and learn how to teach him in a manner where he would learn, and even then, sometimes his comical antics win out over obedience skill at events. Working with Beck opened my eyes to the fact that different breeds sometimes take different tactics and time length to train, and helped me become a better instructor for SOABDC. But please do not get me wrong- Beck can execute an obedience routine with sharp precision off lead just as good as any of the well-bred German Shepherds I’ve ever trained. He just has to want to do it.”

As she continued to work with Beck on learning new tricks, Zornes also learned about Beck’s love and service nature.

“Let me tell you, Beck has been a gift from God for the past 7 1/2 years that we have been graciously blessed to have him in our lives. This little mixed breed with his comical antics helped to heal my family while we were going through the hardest thing we’ve ever had to go through-the death of my mother, Alice, to lymphoma cancer on May 12, 2010,” Zornes explained. “Sometimes, you just need the love of a gentle hound.”

After this experience, Zornes saw an opportunity for this pup to help others.

“Because of how he has proven himself such a tremendous help to our family, we decided to train and share Beck with the world,” she exclaimed. “We got him involved with the community as a therapy dog and registered him as an AKC Canine Partners dog. Before we knew it, this little mixed breed mutt that was a nobody that nobody wanted, suddenly became a very wanted somebody.”

Beck has been a therapy dog for six years now. In that time he has helped many people including those in nursing homes and hospitals.

“In his six years as a therapy dog, Beck has won the heart of a lot of people, cheered up countless broken hearts, and put smiles on a sea of faces,” Zornes explained with pride. “With his signature velvety ears, this little boy has become a beloved treasure to both his family & community. Beck has visited many nursing homes in the area, several public schools & head start pres-school programs in Scioto & Jackson counties, 4H club meetings, Girl Scout camps, veteran’s events, autism project meetings, been in holiday parades as the WWI Flying Ace Snoopy, helped kids with reading disabilities in public libraries, visited people at the local hospital SOMC, attended training club events, supported war memorial functions, been a special guest at local dog pound events helping others like him get adopted, and has spread his goodness both in northern Kentucky and all throughout multiple counties in southern Ohio. He has garnered over 700 hours in his love and empathy toward mankind in his volunteer work.”

In addition to helping many people, Beck has won several awards for being a trick dog.

“This story is not only to tell the greatness of this special All American Dog, but also to congratulate Beck on adding another five titles to his growing list of 22 titles in the dog world, most of those titles being related to his dedication and volunteer work for others as a therapy dog,” Zornes commented. “He has now earned the Do More With Your Dog Excellent Trick Dog title, and has added all 4 of the AKC’s new Trick Dog Titles to his name here at 7 1/2 years old. Our beloved Therapy Dog Beck is now officially Colonel Charles Beckwith 2xCGC THDN TD NTD CGCA RN TDIA THDA TWT CGCA ITD TDIA THDX ATD CGCU THDD TDIAOV TKN TKI TKA ETD TKP.”

Beck can be seen in action perform some of his tricks in a video that was made for the AKC Trick Dog Performance title, which he got, by visiting

“While it wasn’t rehearsed so it’s not perfect, you can still get a view of the comical antics and talents this mixed breed boy has. He’s a gem-and just a free puppy no one had any need of in the beginning,” his loving owner boasted.

Beck the therapy dog has helped many but also wins titles for performing tricks, even though he came into the world nothing more than a mutt. the therapy dog has helped many but also wins titles for performing tricks, even though he came into the world nothing more than a mutt.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.