Monday, September 2, 2013

Mark Condon & Dutchess

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Mark Condon. I am a biology professor at Dutchess Community College. I am also co-founder, president, and trainer at Canine Link, Inc.

My 10-year-old Golden Retriever's name is Dutchess.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Dutchess and I are on our way to Pause Dog Boutique in Rhinebeck, NY to stock up on treats. We are enjoying lunch al fresco at Cosimo's Trattoria in Poughkeepsie, NY.

What's brewing?

I'm enjoying a cup of decaf Java Medic, black.

Any treats for you or Dutchess on this occasion?

Dutchess is enjoying a Kong stuffed with peanut butter (her favorite treat in the world).

Please tell us about your new book, A Day with Dutchess: Life Lessons from a Blind Therapy Dog.

In the book, Dutchess shows her canine friend Droopy how small actions can make a world of difference. They work with children at the autism center, sample treats at their favorite pet boutique, and organize an adoption fair to help lonely cats and dogs find loving forever homes. I hope that readers appreciate the fact that, although Dutchess is blind, her difference does not prevent her from positively impacting others. I also hope that the diversity of characters in the book will help readers appreciate individuals for their unique talents and perspectives.

I am so grateful to be able to share Dutchess' kindness and wisdom in the form of a children's book, and to have had such talented individuals with whom to work. Karen Jones, who has written articles about Dutchess for The New York Times and The Bark, guided the project. Co-author Julie Phillips' beautiful writing captured Dutchess' peaceful, generous spirit perfectly, as she brought her to life in rhyming couplets. My dear friends Sammy Schreiber and Laura Betti were also instrumental. Sammy's kindness and love for animals is infused in each of her wonderful illustrations, and Laura's support throughout the project was indispensable.

A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to Canine Link, HeARTs Speak, and Dog Scouts of America.

Back in 2011 you told us about Dutchess's work as a therapy dog. Any new developments on that front?

In early 2012, several friends and I co-founded Canine Link, a 501(c)(3) organization that trains, certifies, and supports tehrapy dog teams in NY, MA, and CT. Helping build this new organization has been challenging and rewarding. I believe deeply in the power of animal-assisted therapy and its positive effects, and I am grateful to have an opportunity to help guide an organization of talented, generous people (and dogs) as they provide support to individuals in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and various community facilities.

Dutchess and I volunteer mainly at the Anderson Center for Autism in upstate New York. Our involvement has led to opportunities for us to give presentations at autism conferences throughout the northeast and to be guests on autism- and pet-related radio shows. We are always delighted to share our enthusiasm for our work and to champion work of therapy dogs and service dogs.

In addition, we were honored to serve as a therapy dog team in Newtown, CT [photo left] following the Sandy Hook tragedy in December, 2012. Members of the community warmly and graciously embraced us and many other therapy dog teams as we did our best to support them as they healed

We also learned about Dutchess's pet-pals Holly and Tweak in 2011. Has Dutchess made any new regular pet-pals since 2011?

Unfortunately, Holly passed away in June of 2012; Dutchess and I miss her greatly. Tweak, however, is lively and loving and still going strong at 14 years old.

Dutchess and I recently went on vacation with good friends--both human and canine--to Bald Head Island, NC. Dutchess' best canine friends went along: Empi (a Sheltie), Ella and Ramona (Hunt Terriers), and Riley (an Australian Kelpie) [photo right].

All five of them are members of the Dog Scouts of America and belong to the local troop (The Hudson Valley Howlers, Troop #223) that I co-founded with my friend, Laura Betti. These dogs spend a lot of time together, and they all enjoyed their week-long beach vacation.

Read Coffee with a Canine: Mark Condon & Dutchess (December 2011).

Visit Dutchess' web page, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Whenever life seems overwhelming, I think of Dutchess and her love of the moment. She puts everything in perspective!

  2. What a good story. Just goes to show that everybody has something wonderful to contribute. Nice to meet you,, Dutchess.

  3. Enjoying the healing effect of Dutchess...

  4. My sister just told me about this book. Tomorrow morning I will be getting my 6 yr old golden retriever from the surgery center having an eye removed. She had cancer outside the eye and the only way to get a good clean margin was to remove the eye as well. She hopefully will be ok now. I have been so worried how she will be able to return to her duties as a therapy dog. For the past 18 months she has been visiting at the local nursing home every weekend and reading with children, Your story truly gives me hope and inspiration. Thank you!