Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Sitka the Wonderful


© B Walker

This is Sitka. He is wearing his award winning Halloween costume. Let me just say this up front: My readers unanimously directed me to go stand with my head hung down in the Corner of Shame for dressing Georgia in her ladybug Halloween costume. I feel quite certain I have now been joined by Sitka’s person Betsy Walker, for which I am most grateful.

Sitka, who will be 12 in January, is not just a gorgeous face. Sitka is a trained social therapy dog who obtained his “Canine Good Citizen” certification when he was 2. After playing around being a puppy for 2 years, he started working in earnest through the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society’s pet outreach program.

Sitka in his working vest.

Betsy and Sitka’s first assignment was working at the Santa Maria El Mirador day-hab for folks with assorted challenges. During his 2 years working there, people’s spirits were bolstered by the wonderfulness of Sitka. For example, Betsy told me one day a man was so motivated to walk Sitka in the hallway he rose from his wheelchair and spoke for the first time in over 25 years. That is the power of  love.

Betsy and Sitka then moved on to working at the El Dorado Community School where they still work. Initially Sitka was a “reading dog” for 2nd graders. What is a reading dog? As Betsy explains it, kids who struggle with reading often eventually shut down because they cannot handle faltering repeatedly in front of their peers. Taking them away from the classroom to a quiet place where they read to a dog who could care less if they mispronounce a word tends to give them confidence. The children loved to lie down and use Sitka as a pillow as they read to him, or they sat next to him and held the book so that Sitka could see the pictures as they read to him. Sitka has become a famous and beloved personality in the school.

When the 2nd grade teacher moved to another school, Sitka soon had a new job working with kids of all ages in the special ed classes. Sometimes the kids walk him in the hallway. Sometimes they practice performing Sitka’s favorite tricks with him. Sometimes the kids just give him tummy rubs. Always it is about unconditional love and acceptance.

Bravo Sitka! Brava Betsy! We thank you both for your service.




  1. Betsy says:

    Sitka loves this blog post and thinks you wrote about him eloquently. However, he really wants to know, “Where’s the treats?” He sends love and cheerful “woofs” to all his freinds in blog-land!

    • Susan says:

      Tell Sitka that Georgia the Dog is willing to share her Halloween treats with Sitka. She thinks he is most handsome and has a good heart.

  2. Ribasus says:

    If Sitka would run for POTUS, I would definitely vote for him!

  3. We love us some Sitka! Betsy is on a google list with a few of us other horse owners. We all adore Sitka and love reading Betsy’s stories of his adventures. Happy to see that others enjoy him as much as we all do. Yay Sitka!!!

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