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Hampton is a dog with a job

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By Brian Funk, Editor

The little speckled dog with the black face sits obediently by his owner's feet, never daring to get up and even resisting the primal urge in every canine to run after a thrown ball or chase little tykes around the room.

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It's this kind and gentle demeanor that made Hampton's trainer suggest that he become a therapy dog.

Now, the 2-year-old heeler/springer spaniel mix is certified and qualified to put people at ease and spread good will.

Hampton's owners are Marcus Kuhn and Jean Campbell-Kuhn of Galax. Kuhn brought him to meet the kids in the Galax Public Library's story hour program last week.

It was only Hampton's second outing as a therapy dog. The weekend before, he went to the Special Olympics in Winston-Salem, N.C. "The children really enjoyed having him around," Kuhn said.

Kuhn said his wife first took Hampton to local trainer Nicole Kessler with K-9 Kudos to learn how to behave. Hampton's characteristics were perfect for a therapy dog, so he went through advanced training and was certified through the Delta Society.

He wears a collar with special tags and a blue vest that lets everyone know that he's a dog with a job.

Kuhn told the children about the dog and how he's trained to be comfortable around all kinds of people — even rambunctious children. They pet him and get in his face, but Hampton maintains his calm.

Kuhn tosses a tennis ball, and the dog stays perfectly still until Kuhn gives a command.

Even then, Hampton trots rather than runs after it.

In fact, he does nothing at first — even with his master's permission to run.

Three little girls are in front of him, and Kuhn says Hampton's been taught that it's rude to run past them. "He doesn't like to invade personal space."

Even with his air of serenity, Hampton has his mischievous moments.

"He's very obedient, except when he's with his slightly older brother," Kuhn says. "Then they're pretty ornery."

Hampton will walk next to Kuhn without a leash, "but with his brother, he runs around. You can expect to see them again in a couple of hours."