Meet Dottie Chapman & Toby!

Getting to Know You!

An Interview with Dottie Chapman

Once again, I had the good fortune of interviewing a Wagger with whom I have had the pleasure of working.  In the last year, I’ve known Dottie to be a very warm and extremely kind person, who patiently looks to find the other person’s point of view.  But what is so fun about my job with WAGS, is I always find out the most intriguing facets of people I “know” that helped make them who they are.  My interview with Dottie Chapman was no exception!

Dottie was always a dog lover, bringing two Boston Terriers to her marriage to Joe. Their first dog as a couple was a 50-pound hound dog that her in-laws gave them who they named Indy.  Some years later, the terriers passed and Indy was the only dog that was left. But Dottie felt the need to be a two-dog family. Like many of us, she found the Humane Society’s section at Feeder’s Supply to be too much to resist.  And there was the little chocolate fella and his sister...  Overcoming her husband’s reluctance with a good dinner out (we’ve all heard that before), they returned to Feeder’s to find the female pup had found a home.  So, in 1999 they began their journey with the male dog, who they named Hershey.  Her journey to WAGS began with this adorable chocolate pup.

Dottie learned a lot at her first training classes with Hershey about what she did and did not believe about animal behavior. Her first experience was with a trainer who believed in the “alpha dog” and used cruel ways of obtaining obedience.  Dottie quickly swerved from that, and fortunately, found herself with Linda Laun.  She began to go to WAGS meetings, back in the day when they were held in the party room of Three Dog Bakery, and learned about Pet Therapy.

Hershey gets the credit for teaching Dottie what does and does not work when on visits. She has learned over the years to be a true advocate for her pet.  And to be patient with the learning process.  Hershey was a “hot mess” when he started, yet learned what was needed and served for six wonderful years.

The pair went on a variety of visits, from read at the library, hospitals, the hospital unit at the Kentucky State Reformatory, and hospice.  Over time, Dottie learned that it was her job to stand up for her dog.  A patient scared Hershey, and in hindsight, she wished she had left the visit earlier.  She learned that not all dogs, at all points in their lives, enjoy therapy work.  After six enjoyable years, she watched, and was aware it was time for Hershey to retire in 2007, in part due to his diagnosis of Addison’s Disease.

Giving to WAGS is only one facet of Dottie’s life.  As a young girl, she was a Candy Striper, Girl Scout, and Youth Group volunteer.  Good starts toward a life of service! After completing her Bachelor of Science degree at Spalding College, she spent her working career as a Medical Technologist (now called a Clinical Laboratory Scientist) training at Saints Mary & Elizabeth, working at St. Anthony’s, National Health Lab, Baptist Hospital, and Central State Hospital.  She worked her way through college as a phlebotomist. Her first day of work could easily have been the end of her medical career!  She was observing one of the techs drawing blood, and boom – passed out cold.  What a hard start! Fortunately, she had a great mentor for a boss, who told her to “get back on the horse right now”, rolled up her own sleeve, and had Dottie draw her blood. Just like with Hershey in later years, she persevered and found a way through.

Dottie feels that she learned so much from the people she worked for and with. The patients taught her that everyone can have difficulties or problems in their lives and sometimes you just need to ask for help.  This was a very different way for this independent introvert to think.  Sometimes her patients made inexplicable choices.  One very intelligent woman was hospitalized to help her stabilize her medicines.  When she was ready for discharge, she was not excited to go home.  She explained to Dottie that her fear was that as soon as she felt well, she would quit taking her medicines because of the way they made her feel, despite the improvements in her quality of life while on them.  This was the opposite of how Dottie thought she would react to being stabilized.  Listening to people helped Dottie think more analytically, and realize that there are often many sides to any story.

Lieutenant Chapman – another facet of Dottie!  Dottie spent four years in the Navy Reserves in the Medical Service Corp.  The Navy provides medical support for the Marines.  Dottie spent two weeks at Camp LeJeune, two weeks at Camp Pendleton, and two weeks at Charleston, SC Naval hospital. She is a marksman on a 45, worked in fire-fighting, went through a gas chamber, set up a field hospital at Pendleton, and worked on blood bank training manuals at Charleston. Two weeks of local training were spent in an intensive EMT class.

Her Dad was a fire-fighter, and she told him that she sure had more appreciation for what he went through after this experience!  And she learned a life-long lesson – that she was ready for the curve balls life throws your way.  As she said, she often thinks, “If I did that, then I can do this.”

Dottie has worked for WAGS as a trained aide, a 2nd VP, Treasurer, an evaluator, and currently as the Lead Evaluator. I’ve had the good fortune to volunteer at several evaluations, watching the dogs and the people.  I’ve come to understand that the evaluators are not all about the test score. As Dottie pointed out, they are human, make mistakes, and are nervous too!  They want to be your advocate, mentoring you to the best possible outcome for you and your pet. If they decide you are Not Ready, they help you learn ways to improve your dog-human interaction. And sometimes, you have to wait; for your dog, your time, and your place.  You need to learn where your team is comfortable.

And now, after many years of waiting, Dottie has Toby the Beagle. They passed their Evaluation and Mentored Visit in 2022. If you have not yet rubbed the belly of this sweetheart, make sure and take time at the next Membership Meeting! Like Hershey, his journey to therapy dog took years, and he’s still learning.  Dottie is super-watchful, as he loves to jump.  She has taught him “chair”, so he can visit and be petted by more fragile patients.  She uses treats to help him pull less on his leash, as he is eager to go.  But most of all, she just loves him, as do the patients and staff he visits!