WEST CALDWELL, NJ -- While Joseph DalBon, DMD, may be best known as a top-notch local dentist at the New Jersey Center for Laser and Cosmetic Dentistry, he is also the proud owner of a therapy dog. Dr. DalBon spoke with TAPintoTV about his Pit Bull puppy, Olivia, the services she provides to others in the community, and how he came to recognize her unique talents.
DalBon realized Olivia was different around three months old. He watched her interact with his two Puggles, one of which suffers from severe seizures. “When he was having the seizures, Olivia went alongside him, put her nose up to his, and walked him away from the walls and just followed him around. She protected him, and she kept him from going downstairs and just guided him around. It was just her instinct,” DalBon said.
DalBon spoke about how he came to adopt Olivia. “Her mother was pregnant at the New York animal control. They didn’t have room for her, so they were going to put down the mother and the eight puppies,” DalBon explained. “A friend of mine went up there, picked up the mom, picked up the eight puppies, brought them all home, and raised them until they were old enough for adoption.” Olivia’s full name is Olivia Pope, named after the character from Shonda Rhimes’ television show, Scandal, played by Kerry Washington.
Therapy dogs provide psychological support to others. They often visit schools, hospices, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers and have calming, stable personalities that exude comfort and warmth.
After discovering Olivia had an instinct for calming others, DalBon trained her in obedience and agility. “She’s not a food-motivated dog. She is very much an affection-motivated dog,” DalBon explained. “She doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body.” Olivia then completed therapy dog training. “She flew through with flying colors,” DalBon said.
DalBon and Olivia volunteer in the local Morris County community through Creature Comfort. Together, they visit local elementary schools where children pet Olivia while they practice reading out loud.
“We also go to many special education schools where there are children ages three to sixteen. They are very tactile. So they will hug, kiss, and grab Olivia, and she loves it. She thrives on affection. The way these kids react to her is just amazing,” DalBon explained. “It debunks the myth of ferocious Pit Bulls.”
DalBon and Olivia love being able to give back to the community together. “It’s great for both of us because we get to spend a lot of time together. She’s a good dog. She’s my buddy. She’s my pal,” DalBon said.