Writer’s note — This is about Tanner and Emma, two wonderful Pembroke Welsh corgis who are licensed with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and love nothing more than going to different places to spread joy with their humans, Ann-Marie and Jim L’Etoile of Cameron Park. The pair of pooches, who will tail their own tail below, are great at bringing a doggone good time to those who need it. And who doesn’t?
Tanner: Oh, goody — Mom and Dad are packing up the car with our kennel and toys so I’ll bet you anything we’re going to Face in a Book, that store in El Dorado Hills where the kids read to us, don’t you think so, Emma?
Emma: Yep, there go our blankets and leashes so it looks like cute little kids will be petting us and pulling on our ears and reading us stories real soon. This is going to be a great day! Let’s get rollin’ …
Tanner: Here we are, trotting through the bookstore door and I see Mom has those fancy bookmarks with our pictures on them, telling everyone we’re Welsh corgis who live in Cameron Park and that I like to chase my little sister around. Wait — that’s you, I’m 6 years old and you’re 4 and a half — and it’s usually you who does the chasing — and the ball stealing!
Emma: The youngest gets away with murder, everyone knows that. But anyway, let’s get settled in at the back of the bookstore and wait for the kids. I hope they aren’t set on reading us too many cat stories today. I find cats annoying, don’t you?
“Many of the children who read to the dogs choose cat books,” said Ann-Marie L’Etoile to a newspaper writer who with a photographer had come to Face in a Book to check out the cute little corgis who are said to be highly popular with children. The kids read to the dogs, which are all ears … well, nose and mischievous muzzles as well.
“The kids will make sounds like a cat as they’re reading, trying to get a reaction from the dogs — and they think it’s hilarious,” continued Tanner and Emma’s “mom,” not clarifying whether it’s the children or the dogs or both that find it so amusing. “Some of the kids whisper as they read to the dogs — but you can still make out sounds like ‘ruff’ and ‘meow.’”
What is going on?
Tanner: Wonder why Mom is talking to those two ladies, one with a camera that she keeps pointing at us. We’re used to that, having our pictures taken, but it’s usually after the kids get here. And that other lady, scratching away at a piece of paper — she keeps smiling at me and saying things but I’m not sure what she’s up to.
Emma: I heard Dad say the newspaper was going to do a story on us, so that must be it. But where are the kids? Oh, here we go — we’ve got a cutie pie at one o’clock.
Tanner: Well, I couldn’t look any more adorable but I’ll wag my tail to get his attention.
Emma: Go ahead, we’re waiting — wag your tail; all I can see is your behind wiggling.
Tanner: I am wagging, it’s just that our tails are so short.
“Their tails are docked right after they’re born because Corgis were actually bred for herding cattle,” said Ann-Marie as husband Jim positioned the dogs’ accoutrements, making sure their afternoon at the bookstore would be comfortable. “The farmers wanted their dogs to have short tails so that they wouldn’t get caught in the swinging gates as the dogs went through, herding the sheep and cattle.”
The corgi look
And what about their legs, one of the ladies asked, those surprisingly short legs that seem too small to hold up their standard-sized dog bodies and heads? Even though the combination of short tail, short legs, normal body and normal noggin works because the result is so fetching — still, what the heck?
“Their short legs can be deceiving,” said Ann-Marie. “Corgis are very, very fast. They were bred to get the shorter legs because, if you think about it, if a dog is herding a cow and the cow kicks out, the hoof goes right over the top of the dog because he’s so short, avoiding injury.”
Emma: You know, I have always wondered about that. I kept thinking my legs were going to get longer but now I know. I’m glad that lady who keeps smiling at us and scratching away asked that question.
Tanner: Now she wants to know about our ears, of all things. What’s wrong with our ears!?
“They hear extremely well,” said Ann-Marie, explaining that the pert, bat-like appendages on her beloved corgis, licensed therapy dogs, are great at picking up sounds like a kibble package being opened. The treats she uses when taking Tanner and Emma out for book reading or for any of the many other therapy programs are firmly fixed on their radar as well.
Visiting to Placerville
One of the therapy visits involves going to Eskaton senior living facility in Placerville, a trip the dogs and their humans make twice a month. Eskaton’s Memory Care Center is where residents gather to greet their four-legged visitors.
Tanner: Oh, I love going to the Placerville place because I always get extra treats! Mom told me it’s because the people there, who are really nice, don’t always remember that they already saw me make the rounds, getting a dog cookie from their hand — and so when I come back a few minutes later, they give me another one! I don’t think Mom has caught on yet …
“It’s actually good that some of them don’t remember that Tanner has already paid them a visit, because then they can enjoy it all over again,” said Ann-Marie, welcoming the newspaper on another day to show how her older corgi can coax a smile out of those who could really use it.
Not only was Ann-Marie not in the company of her husband Jim, but Emma too had stayed home.
“I’m licensed to handle only one therapy dog at a time,” said Ann-Marie, adding that her crime novel-writing husband was working and so only one dog could go to Eskaton this time. Emma, she said, seemed happy to watch over their Cameron Park home as her older brother did his dog-ly duty.
Tanner: I got to go to Eskaton all by myself today so all the treats out of Mom’s magic pockets are mine … but I kinda miss my sister. I just heard Mom tell that man in a chair that has wheels on it, like our car, that Emma and I eat better than she and Dad do but I’m not sure about that. I still haven’t had one of those things they get all excited about, something called “chocolate,” for gosh sakes.
Entertaining the crowd
Oops, I’m on! Mom wants me to show these nice folks how I can whisper. I already did other tricks including spinning through her legs but she especially likes this one, so I guess I’ll do it. She tells me to whisper and I barely let a breath come out of my grinning muzzle, just enough so’s you can hear it. Everyone’s laughing and smiling, so it must have been a hit again.
“I taught Tanner that one because his bark is so darned loud,” Ann-Marie said, flipping a treat that was craftily caught by soft, quiet lips.
And that’s kind of surprising, the red-and-white corgi being so loud, because when he was a puppy he wouldn’t bark to go outside when another kind of doggy duty beckoned. The L’Etoiles ended up installing a bell that it turned out Tanner loves to ring.
“We got a bell and he liked that,” smiled Ann-Marie, who said she picked Tanner out when he was a puppy. His younger sister has the same mother, different dad. Ann-Marie said she became involved in volunteering for therapy programs with her adorable animals for several reasons and Jim said that he too began helping out as the gigs with the dogs “came with the marriage package.”
Fun for everyone
The outings where children read to the dogs are favorites for Ann-Marie, though, for a quite poignant reason.
“When I was a kid, I would hide from my school teacher because I was shy,” she confided. “I didn’t want to read out loud. The thing about dogs — dogs listen, with no judgment, no pressure.”
Back at the El Dorado Hills bookstore, where the management loves to see the L’Etoiles and their cute companions come through the door, a few kids by now had wandered in. Time for the corgis to spring into action, albeit with their stumpy legs the spring might not be noticed. Two little girls walked in, both clutching thin volumes under their arm as Emma and Tanner craned their heads as far as they could (not far) to see who was approaching.
One of the girls, 7-year-old Parker Hitt, plunked down near Emma and started reading out of a book called “The English Roses.”
“This is the good part,” whispered Ann-Marie to the photographer, who took up position and began capturing the magic moment. Parker patted Emma’s head and began telling her all about “five girls moving to Paris …”
Asked later by the newspaper, Parker explained that the book (“It’s a good one”) was given to her by a friend and that it is the second in a series of children’s stories written by none other than Madonna.
Tanner: Madonna? Isn’t she that singer who wears those cones of shame on her chest, like we do when we’re not supposed to scratch our ears? Only we wear them around our neck … people are weird, aren’t they?
Emma: They’re weird … but they’re really cute and great to have around, if you can train them properly.
For more information about Emma and Tanner and their availability to visit those who could use some corgi cuddling call (916) 806-1929.