Meet Aladdin, A Rescue Dog That's Winning Hearts (And Changing Lives)

Aladdin and his owner Michele travel across the country helping those in need.

Aladdin may seem like your typical rescue dog, but in reality he is so much more. 

Aladdin's owner, Michele Schaffer-Stevens, is the community outreach director for Lilo's Promise Animal Rescue and often fosters dogs that have been abused, have special medical needs, or are emaciated. She agreed to foster Aladdin in 2013 after he was found severely emaciated. Both of his back legs and tail had been broken and he was also missing 12 teeth. It was not long before Michele noticed how much love and joy Aladdin brings to everyone he meets, leading her to train Aladdin to become a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs are trained to remain calm in a variety of unusual situations. 

"I trained Aladdin to pass the therapy test which consisted of basic obedience as well as being able to be around unusual situations for a dog," Schaffer-Stevens told A Plus. "We practiced often in public with a variety of strangers to get him used to be handled by many different people… He is also a trained crisis response dog so he is trained to work in disaster situations, [like those with] loud noises, extreme weather, smoke, sirens, flashing lights." 



Michele and Aladdin have been working as a therapy team for three years now, and they are making an impact. Not only is he an "ambassadog" for a nationwide animal abuse campaign called "Show Your Soft Side," he is the spokesdog for Lilo's Promise Animal Rescue and for Tito's Vodka, Vodka for Dog People Campaign. Tito's even flew him down to work with victims of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting. Among his many project,  Aladdin is a member of the Purina National Therapy Dog Ambassador Team and works with the Philadelphia Police Fallen Officers Fund.

But his favorite activity of all is working with the families at the Ronald McDonald House.

"Our most rewarding therapy work is visiting the families at Ronald McDonald House. We have been doing therapy work there for almost three years and seeing how both the kids and parents react to him is so heart-warming," Schaffer-Stevens told A Plus. "No matter how often we go there, seeing the bond that Aladdin creates with the children never gets old."

There is no doubt that Aladdin is an extraordinary dog, and Michele and Aladdin make an extraordinary team, which is why Chicken Soup for the Soul Pet Food nominated them for the Hero Dog Awards, where Aladdin won the "therapy dog category." (Editor's note: Chicken Soup For The Soul is A Plus' parent company.) 

Schaffer-Stevens reflected on the experience to A Plus, saying, "It was an amazing experience being nominated and winning the Therapy Dog Category.  We met so many amazing people during our journey and through the Hero Dog Award Gala we met Dr. Brian Beale of the television show Animal ER who is going to fix Aladdin's back legs."

Aladdin is having a CT scan this week, which is his first step to regaining better mobility. Once Aladdin's legs are fixed, "we will go back to doing therapy and crisis response work as usual," Schaffer-Stevens told A Plus. "But I can't wait to see him be able to run and play like a regular dog and not suffer like he does now." 

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