A very energetic – and quite adorable – beagle mix, named Ellie, put on a show for a small crowd at the Dunmore Community Center Saturday night. During the show, she demonstrated a variety of tricks – from fetching to jumping to playing piano.
Ellie even showed off a few wizard skills after she received her admittance letter to “Dogwarts Wizardry School.”
That’s why she’s known as the Amazing Ellie.
Ellie and her trainer/ owner Donna Dombek, performed at the show as a fundraiser for the Seneca Woodlands Women’s Club, of which Dombek’s sister, Tammy Hively, is a member.
After Ellie’s performance, Dombek explained how Ellie first came into her life and the journey they have been on for the past six years.
Dombek is a certified dog trainer through Animal Behavior College and helped rescue Ellie from a kill shelter in Kentucky. Ellie and her littermates were rescued by Empire Animal Rescue Society [EARS] from Salamanca, New York.
From there, Ellie became a member of the Dombek family and hit the ground running with her training.
“Ellie has basically been in school since the day I got her,” Dombek said. “She started Puppy Stars class immediately upon arrival at our home. She then went through K-9 Good Citizens, which she had to do twice because she failed the first time. She was a little exuberant in greeting strangers. She wanted to jump on them.”
During the training, Dombek noticed certain traits in Ellie that made her think she would make a good therapy dog.
“At age one and a half, we started taking a class to become a certified therapy dog, and by age two she was certified through Therapy Dogs International,” Dombek said. “We do a lot of visits in northwestern Pennsylvania and south- western New York areas. She visits schools, nursing homes and libraries. She loves being with the children and, in fact, we’re going to be doing some library visits while we’re here [in Pocahontas County] this week.”
Ellie has also earned the highest level possible with the American Kennel Club – Elite Performer – as a trick dog. She earned that title at the age of three. She loves participating in dog sports, but doesn’t always compete due to her own preferences.
“We’ve never competed in agility,” Dombek said. “If you’re familiar with that sport, there are particular things – jumps, climbs – stuff they have to do in a particular order. Ellie loves all the stuff and she does it all, but she decides what order she wants to do it in.”
Dombek, who is an assistant professor at St. Bonaventure University, has also used Ellie in studying the effectiveness of therapy dogs in elementary school settings.
In the spring of 2018, Dombek spent a total of 75 hours in a third grade class with Ellie. After the students acclimated to her being there to observe them, she brought in Ellie. She observed the students’ interactions with Ellie and rated them on the Behavioral Emotional Rating Scale.
“I wanted to see if her presence in the classroom affected anything, so we did a pre- and post-survey,” she said. “The teacher completed it for each of his students and after we did the post survey, the statistical results showed that her presence in the classroom had had an effect on some of those [behavioral factors].”
Dombek shared a story about one particular student in the class who had behavioral issues, but when he came into contact with Ellie, his demeanor changed. When Ellie entered the room, he got down by her side and was very protective of her, telling his fellow classmates to be gentle with her.
There was another instance where the boy was scheduled to see a dentist who held a clinic at the school. The boy was known to have problems with the dentist and was a bite risk, but when Ellie joined him at the clinic, the boy explained to her what the dentist was going to do and when the boy got in the dentist chair, Ellie jumped up beside him and the boy had no problems at all.
For such a small dog, Ellie has a large heart and immense talent for tricks and therapy.