A young police constable from England, Jim Newell, moved to Canada bringing with him his family… and a love of dogs. This canine passion would explain why Jim also shared his life with Min Pins, Bouvier des Flandres, Toy Poodles, an Airedale and most especially, German Shepherds. And his theory about Goldens? Jim said they were born trained.
The essence of a gentleman and gifted with a quick wit and lively sense of humour, Jim was a popular and sought-after public speaker who applied his talents to teaching. He offered Dale Carnegie courses but soon combined his teaching abilities with his love for dogs – by starting tracking classes. A supportive instructor, Jim helped his students feel that all dogs could master a track. But pet therapy is where Jim would really shine. Together with his wife, Jean, the two began dog visitations with their obedience group as far back as the 1960s or 70s.
Jim became an evaluator for Therapy Dogs International based in New Jersey and soon realized that Canada needed its own structured pet therapy visitation program. He suggested to St. John Ambulance (Ontario Council) that they should consider expanding to offer pet visitation services. As a Commander with SJA, Jim’s recommendation was quickly adopted. His equally gifted dog, Jennie, was the founding dog and mascot for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs. Following Jean’s death, Jim married to Doreen and the couple traveled extensively, setting up SJA therapy dog groups to eager dogs and their eager handlers.
The Birth of Therapeutic Paws of Canada
Judy Sauvé was among the first dog/handler teams evaluated for SJA therapy dogs. Side by side with Jim, Judy and her dog visited Extendicare in Peterborough, Ontario for a few years. Then they turned their collaboration to establish a new organization dedicated solely to pet therapy – it was to become Therapeutic Paws of Canada (TPOC). Judy, the Founder and Chair of TPOC, once again worked with Jim – this time with Jim as one of the first three TPOC Directors. By then, Jim was no longer visiting – his dog was too old to meet the rigours and challenges of therapy work. Nonetheless, Jim was instrumental in helping establish TPOC. He offered advice and turned his creative brain to the crucial tasks of developing bylaws, policies and procedures that make TPOC an organization of exceptional standards.
On November 28, 2015, at the age of 91 years, Jim passed away. His impressive legacy reflects a lifetime of work, passion for dogs and belief in how dogs benefit humans with their compassion. TPOC now boasts chapters from West to East in Canada where volunteers and their loving animals provide for the physical, mental, educational, motivational, social needs of people.
Thanks to Judy Sauvé for the historical information and Joanne Rockey-Smith for the photo.