Meet Bruce and Gale Cummings
Bruce Cummings is credentialed in Assisted Pet Therapy and Music Education. Recently retired, he successfully worked as a project manager/engineer in the biotech industry while continuing his professional musical career. In 2016, he completed his internship at the Wrentham Development Center. Now he is an advocate for Canine Presence community projects.
Cynthia Vanaudenhove, President Emeritus WindWalker Humane Coalition and Bruce Cummings Interview
“Congratulations on being our first WindWalker team in the PPAT Spotlight! I know that you and your wife, Gale, have spent a big part of your life working with these glorious Irish Terriers. You’ve talked to me in the past about the rarity of the breed and the privilege that you feel working to keep this breed safe and sound.”
"I think our readers would love to hear a little bit about that and specific information about the breed as well."
Bruce: Terriers are a lot of fun – Irish Terriers are rare old breed … according to the AKC registration data – there was few breeding litters…. As a Purpose bred dog …first appearing in Britain 1880’s …they were bred for vermin hunting and sentinel work on the family farms and merchant ships. They had also been used as messengers in the first world war. A quick learner, this breed has a great versatility and a willingness to please. They want to work. Hence with such a long history, their popularity spans decades … more than once I heard an old timer say, “I had one of those when I was kid” . My mom was professional hander, so I was raised in kennel (kidding, maybe) Met my first Irish terrier in 1965. Got my first IT in 1973. Gale and I have had IT’s now close to thirty years… we think of ourselves as a duty – “ preservation of the breed”
"What do you think pet therapy has contributed to the breed in your experience and what your breed has contributed to pet therapy?"
Bruce: Pet therapy – the continued global recognition and public education about the Irish Terrier’s traits – a devoted family member, personality and keen intelligence – can be integrated and expanded clinical healthcare community goals. This versatile breed is highly intelligent, a family pet brings sensible characteristics to many learning settings, the canine human bond. • The first introduction to a new individual or group – IT’s come into the room in a respectful, cautious demeanor – so when introduced to a client they approach with respect for their physical space with and with engaging nature.
"What makes your dogs special?"
Bruce: They are very intelligent and love to work. Choosing a dog that loves to work with people is key. Temperament testing and training is very important in developing a dogs character and instincts for a particular job.
"What was it that inspired you to em”bark” on this pet therapy journey?"
Bruce: After Gale heard a speaker at her dog club talk about her canine therapy adventures, we were intrigued to this great opportunity. I was retired from the biotech/pharma industry, and we were bring our Irish to see my mom in a nursing home setting. (how she loved and lived for them) We had several retired show dogs we wanted to keep working – us and them ! We were already seeing the benefits of bringing the ITs to the nursing home all residents and staff dog As well, the home had other credential teams offering Canine therapy (Liz and Buddy Pet Partners).
"What drew you to the DJ program?"
Bruce: The DJ PPAT program curriculum as mentioned – a college level community evening program, the structure of the program, classroom mentoring, hands-on training and internship (completed 2016). The program’s internship; years ago I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor at the Wrentham State School, working with the Adults with Disabilities. Hence I opted to returned to this state run institution for my internship – now known as the Wrentham Development Center. Shortly after in 2017, I started our business “Canine Presence” (LLC pending).
"What was your biggest take away from the DJ classes?"
Bruce: Just how important the internship program was – which combines the theory with all the elements of a successful pet therapy program or canine therapy goals. Starting “Canine Presence” was the combination of my years of professional experiences, education, working at Wrentham State school all those years ago – and the importance of community service.
"How has pet therapy affected you personally?"
Bruce: The modality of Canine Therapy – although very popular, still under utilized therapy untapped in community outreach programs, rehabilitation and nursing settings. ability to serve. My purpose at 70 years old – the ability to serve ….also ones own self benefiting from giving back.
"Tell us where you are providing pet therapy programs."
Bruce: In 2017, I had two Irish terriers credentialed (“Jagger and Duke”) In 2018, we got a third IT “Wags” was credentialed. “Canine Presence” started volunteering at a local hospitals (Morton Hospital – Elder Behavioral unit), and day habilitation programs for adults with disabilities; the organization is HMEA. At first, I was contracted to provide services weekly at three different programs (Plainville, Bellingham and North Attleboro). Later I was contracted by HMEA to support an individual in a residential setting, then in 2019, I was contracted to support HMEA employment services (also weekly). Early 2020, I was contracted by rehabilitation and nursing center the Briarwood center Needham – then the pandemic.
"Can you describe your programs for us?"
Overall Weekly Goal: (Day Habilitation Programs and Morton Hospital)
Introduction and provide pet assisted therapy to individuals for overall positive social interaction. Behavioral expectation of appropriate mood, respectfulness and a desire to communicate. Reduce anxiety observed at end of session(s).
Classroom instruction for programs; subjects canine care and social skills in a community setting. Addition emphasis will be on vocational job development, including integration of ISP cross-functional objectives. Each session documented via weekly progress assessment notes as required by HMEA management.
Example – Residential Home Care
Overall Bi-Weekly Introduction Goal(s):
0 = Does Not Initiate
1 = Initiates
2 = Participation
3 = Activity Level
Physical assistance with interactive meaningful activities.
Behavioral expectation – appropriate mood desire to communicate.
Content-focused use of hands observed (motivation).
"What is the significance of the name of your program Canine Presence?"
Bruce: Gale created the name back in early 2000 when she was making canine gift and trophy packages, all items were dog related. In todays’ chapter – The gift is the Irish themselves and how they “show-up” – their residence, their companionship, demeanor, their spirit.
"What have you learned about pet therapy, your dogs, and even yourself during this time?"
Bruce: What we have learned about PPAT/AAT is that there is a lot of education to be done for handlers and business, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.. There are different levels of canine therapy training. There are many different needs for canine therapy. What we have learned about our dogs is that they instinctively stay ‘live” in the present they are very intuitive. We, as humans, have to do a better job of listening to them, they are communicating all the time ! For ourselves – listening is key, the dogs know who needs therapy and who isn’t ready to receive it.
"How have your dogs benefited from being Windwalker credentialed therapy dogs?"
Bruce: The dogs enjoy working! The importance of the AKC recognition has been very advantageous to receiving the titling for the work that the dogs achieve.
- Jagger received his AKC Therapy Dog Advance title in 2019 (achieved more than 100 visit).
- Duke received his AKC Therapy Dog Advance title in 2019 (achieved more than 100 visit).
- Wags received her AKC Therapy Dog title in 2019 (achieved more than 50 visits, we have also exceed more than 100 visits – awaiting AKC getting back to normal).
"And what do you think the future holds for Canine Presence?"
Bruce: Understanding the “new normal” as defined for safe interaction with individuals, staff and our pets – understanding the transfer of contagious diseases while working – human to human, animal to human.
Education opportunities for the introduction to the broad aspect of canine therapy, and the specialization of needs.
- Gross and fine motor skills, ADL skills, physical balance.
- Pre-vocational tasks – dog walking, brushing, social behavior, petcare (compassion for the pet, compassion for people).
- Combining Canine Therapy with Music Therapy.
We’d love to hear anything else that you have to say about what you and your dogs do that you think would be interesting and important.
Bruce: First, we would want to say sincerely thank you to Cynthia. I am honored to be part of WindWalker family. There are many heartfelt, soulful personal stories to tell and share.
Secondly, a grateful thank you to our all first responders, health care workers, doctors, nurses, police, groceries folks, truckers, teachers, everyone who lived on the front lines”…. but I believe the impact of the pandemic has dramatically changed future PPAT visits, and assisted animal therapy (AAT). Canine therapy is at the beginning stage of the ‘new normal’. How do we best serve our day programs ? The assisted living and senior centers, hospitals, schools, our libraries, the ones in our extended family?
And support the WindWalker’s DJ PPAT Program; my hope is the members continue to contribute to the program’s growth, knowledge, training and curriculum via the “Spotlight”. Support the program’s excellence and experiences (note: the curriculum was the main reason I wanted to enroll and get credentialed by the WindWalker Humane Coalition.
We’d love to hear from you!