“Everywhere you go, there he is.”
Hence the name Shadow. And patients at Eccella Smiles seem to love him.
Shadow, a 2-year-old, 90-pound, three-legged Weimaraner, is the cuddly pet therapy dog at Dr. Scott Wagner’s dental practice, located on Marsh Landing Parkway in Jacksonville Beach.
Shadow ended up with the Wagner family thanks to Dr. Wagner’s wife, Kate, and her passion for the breed. Kate Wagner is the Southeast regional coordinator for the Grayter Good Weimaraner Rescue, which helps Weimaraners of all ages across the United States to find permanent homes or foster homes. Shadow was an abuse case found in Mississippi, and a team of seven people traveled 12 hours to bring him to the First Coast and his forever home, as well as his new career.
Shadow has been with the Wagners about a year now and has assisted at the dental practice around six months for two to three days a week.
“He just makes himself at home and goes up and welcomes everybody,” Dr Wagner said.
For the most part, patients love seeing Shadow at the office, and if for some reason a patient is allergic or not a fan, Dr. Wagner says the office is respectful of that. And some who weren’t sure about having a dog there at first were quickly convinced by Shadow.
“Once they get to meet him, they totally dig him,” Dr Wagner said. “He’s super soft and he just loves everyone from the little kids who come in to my oldest patients, to everyone in between. He just wants to be loved on.”
Considering his job, Dr. Wagner says having the extra help that Shadow provides goes a long way toward changing perspectives in his field of practice.
“The whole goal is just to have everyone feel good and be more relaxed,” he said. “As a profession, we [dentists] still fight the reputation as being someone who causes pain or discomfort and that kind of stuff, so if you alleviate stress and anxiety, he helps change some of that demeanor in the office.”
The Wagners have two other Weimaraners: Allie, a rescue, and Bella. They recently lost two others, Hanna and Porter. But it was Shadow’s unique personality that made him a good fit for Eccella.
“He definitely does change just the attitude in the office of a lot of patients,” Dr. Wagner said. “He’ll sense someone, if they’re upset or nervous, and he’ll hop into the room and just puts his head on their lap. To be so young, he’s very intuitive about that.”
Kate said her love for Weimaraners began around 17 years ago when, without knowing anything about the breed, they got Hanna — and some surprises.
“I got the crazy dog that is as emotionally needy as a 4-year old,” she said. “They’re not like any other dog.”
But because she was a big animal lover, she knew she couldn’t get rid of her new Weimaraner; so, she got another one.
“I became that crazy Weimaraners lady,” Kate said.
After meeting Scott, Kate worried that having two “crazy” dogs might derail their relationship, but instead, he fell in love with them too.
Kate said the fact that Weimaraners become so attached and can be high-strung is the reason she focused on them.
“I’m crazy about the breed because they are one of the highest rate of return breeds, just because of how needy they are,” she said. “It’s just become a real passion of mine.”
However, according to Scott, Shadow doesn’t really fit the Weimaraner mold.
“Shadow is in his own world,” Scott said. “He’s just Mr. laidback.”
And Kate says Eccela Smiles patients see in Shadow what her family sees.
“People love him,” she said. “He really has such a following at the office. People want to make sure Shadow is there or ask,‘Where’s Shadow?’ He just makes them feel so at ease and they don’t have that dental anxiety.”
Dr. Wagner expects Shadow to have a long and successful career as a pet therapist at his office.
“I foresee as long as he’s healthy and happy and continuing to love on people, he’ll continue to be there in his part-time role,” he said.