Professional Courtesy: Meet My Therapist by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Dentaltown Magazine

My dental practice is going to the dogs but that isn’t a bad thing

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director, Dentaltown magazine

This is Bear … he’s my best friend.

Bear joined our family last April, and will celebrate his first birthday Feb. 21. I’m introducing him to you because he’s training to become part of my practice as a therapy dog.

I never owned a dog growing up, and I never thought I would as an adult, either. The kids would occasionally bring up getting a dog but their school and sports schedules, plus our dental practice, travel and rest of life never seemed to allow space for one. My dental team is filled with pet owners who’d often question that decision whenever they shared stories about their own pets.

Fast-forward to my daughter’s senior year in high school, when the reality hit that we’d soon have two children in college and only one left at home, who’d miss his sister. And in two short years, my wife and I would be empty nesters. I’d been thinking about life with a dog and doing plenty of reading and research on the subject.

My youngest son has allergy symptoms when he visits friends with dogs, so before we made our final decision we took him to an allergist for testing. The allergy was confirmed, but the allergist said a nonshedding dog would be OK if it didn’t sleep in my son’s bed. The search was on and we found a litter of goldendoodle puppies. When the puppies were about 6 weeks old, we went to the breeder’s home and met them. I won’t bore you with all the advice for selecting a puppy, but after a few minutes playing with each one we picked Bear for his curious and gentle demeanor. I explained to the breeder that we had hopes Bear could become a therapy dog one day and she thought he was a good choice as well.

I’d read a few news items about therapy dogs in dental offices, and started to investigate this possibility for our future dog. This designation would allow him to visit with patients in our practice and give us an opportunity to volunteer in our community.

Therapy dogs visit hospital patients and seniors in assisted living facilities, and also spend time with children learning to read. I’ve already brought Bear to the practice to visit our team many times, and the response is amazing: They ask if he can be there every day to comfort them! When I’m in the office, there might be a patient who spots him and wants to say hello. They always ask if he’ll be in the office on a regular basis.

To prepare for work as a therapy dog, we’ve been doing plenty of training with him. The youngest a pet can take the test for therapy certification is 1 year. Certification is as much about the pet as it is their handler; you’re certified as a team. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a therapy team with your pet, check out Pet Partners ( or the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (

A couple of closing thoughts: If you’re thinking about getting a pet, look for pets to adopt. We had initially met an 8-month-old labradoodle named Simon that was up for adoption, but the rescue facility sent him to a service dog organization. Also, raising a puppy is not easy; be certain you have the time, energy and patience for training and socialization.

Share pictures and stories of your pets in the comments area of this article online at! If you would like to reach me directly, feel free to email


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