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Canine Carbon County resident garners national Gold Standard recognition

Sun Advocate reporter

Carbon County golden retriever Murphy stands patiently while students from Wellington Elementary measure him for a math concepts project. Murphy recently won the national 2007 Gold Standard Award.

A Carbon County canine resident named Murphy received the national 2007 Gold Standard Award.

The Golden Retriever Club of America award is presented to canines who perform acts that enrich, inspire and contribute to the lives of individuals as well as communities.

Owned and trained by Nancy and Ernie Bentley, Murphy has been a volunteer at local elementary after school and nursing home programs for the past three years.

According to the Bentleys, the dog is well known throughout the community.

Murphy has made such an impact at Wellington Elementary, where the animal's trainer works, that the dog has been listed as official faculty for the past two years.

"I guess it is a sign of popularity when you have to re-order school photographs, not mine of course, but Murphy's," commented Nancy Bentley.

Murphy also visits the Price City Library, where he is a hit with the children since garnering his Delta Society certification three and one-half years ago.

"There is nothing like a chorus of more than 200 elementary children gleefully yelling, 'Murphy, over here, Murphy.' That is what greets us as we enter Wellington Elementary," explained Bentley. "Nothing makes him happier than being with kids, especially those who crave and need additional attention."

"Sure, he loves to go visit the local nursing homes and be told how beautiful he is, get extra attention and treats, but his true love is children," added the trainer.

The Delta Society's mission is to improve human health and learning by using therapy animals. In the 1990s, Delta built on the society's scientific and educational base to provide direct services at the local level.

The services include providing the first comprehensive training in animal-assisted activities and therapy to volunteers as well as health care professionals.

A significant advance was the development of the standards of practice in animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy, which provides guidance in the administrative structure of these programs.

One of Delta's strengths continues to be the development of standards based training materials.

According to Bentley, trying to fit in the volunteering that will effectively use Murphy's training is never easy, especially because it includes baths for the dog prior to every visit.

But getting to witness the impact that Murphy has on all the people the canine comes in contact with makes the work worth the effort.

"He helps children learn in many different ways from empathy to concrete learning concepts, to teamwork building exercises such as the Concentration/Memory Games, Respectables - a game that teaches respect, and the String Measuring Project," pointed out Nancy Bentley.

Ernie Bentley reported that Murphy was required to stand in place for more than two hours while students from Wellington Elementary ran little hands and measuring tape all over his anatomy during the schools measuring project.

The project helps students with math concepts by using measurements of the dog to draw a mathematical diagram of the retriever on the ground.

"The patience that he shows is just amazing. He never gets bothered or impatient no matter how long he is required to do something," indicated Ernie Bentley.

During the last year, the couple decided to try Murphy's hand at rally work.

And the training turned out to be an immediate success.

"We started training in the middle of March and went to our first show in April. We qualified in every show and took home three blue ribbons, obtaining our rally advanced excellence title in September," explained Nancy Bentley.

"My friend likes to point out that I missed more points in the competition than the dog did. Murphy still does not understand the whys of rally competition, but when asked to do something he is always willing to follow through," she continued.

The Carbon County golden retriever has demonstrated success in all of the programs the dog has joined.

But one of the most significant testaments about the canine's power to help others comes from a story told about when Murphy was still a pup and had no official training.

"We brought him home at 10 weeks and took him to the local library so that he could get used to different noises and places. His beacon immediately went off and he headed over to where a 10-year-old boy was sitting off in a corner playing by himself in the children's room," recalled Nancy Bentley. "This little 10-week-old puppy pulls me over, lays down about two feet from the boy and with the boy continually glancing at him out of the corner of his eye, Murphy gently inched and crawled over to him."

"The boy looked sideways and reached out to touch Murphy. Murphy cuddled up to him and they sat that way for 10 minutes. The young boy had just lost his mother and was having difficulties with any type of communication, but Murphy gave him a start," added Nancy Bentley.

The canine has worked his way into the hearts of many people in the community and continues to spread the acknowledgment of the power of animal-assisted learning and therapy.

"With Murphy's guidance, volunteer programs are expanding into our areas of Utah, including the Uintah Basin and the Moab area, we couldn't be prouder of all he has accomplished," concluded Nancy Bentley.

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