Our Founding Story
Divine Canines is the result of two deeply personal experiences shared by founder Tori Ott Keith and her trainer, Lee Mannix. Walking with her gigantic Great Dane, Eudora, always turned heads. On this day, it transformed Tori’s life. She encountered a little girl riding a bicycle who asked if the larger-than-life dog was friendly. Tori nodded and the little girl hugged and caressed Eudora in silence. When she was finished, she looked up at Tori and said “I’ve just had the worst day ever and your dog made me feel so much better.” For Tori, it was an epiphany that she shared with Lee the next day at training.
Lee Mannix had his own story to tell Tori. He had been hospitalized as a patient when a therapy dog came in accompanied by a handler clad in a heavy metal t-shirt and shredded jeans. As the dog walked in the staff frantically put in ear plugs to prepare for what was to come. The dog proceeded to excessively bark for attention, stopping only when the owner rewarded its compulsive behavior with a treat. The entire interaction, from the unprofessional attire to the ill-behaved dog, had inspired Lee to one day build an organization where a dog and his owner work in cooperation and harmony—the dog creating a bridge between two people, volunteer and client, with no ear plugs required!
Tori organized the first group of volunteers and Lee trained them. Whether or not you ever met Lee Mannix, you know him. His philosophy and values serve as the foundation for the training provided to Divine Canines volunteers. Lee Mannix continues to live on through us and the work we do. We are his legacy.
Eudora is the inspiration and model for the Divine Canines logo.
“I live in my own little world out there and just help dogs. And that’s all I’m trying to do. Help dogs.” –Lee Mannix in his own words.
Celebrating Lee Mannix
We celebrate Lee Mannix who was instrumental in the founding of Divine Canines. A favorite description of him comes from the Austin-American Statesman, circa 2009:
“Lee Mannix is part dog, a big bad hound. He’s a tail-wagger, a tongue-flapper, speaks fluent dogese, barks a little. Bites? Maybe. He’s a casual dispenser of expletives with a gift for the off-color anecdote. He hunts, fishes and drinks beer in his spare time. He loves poetry, cooking and the Longhorns. He drives a 1985 Chevy pickup with an AC Delco radio. He’s a born raconteur, breaking his train of thought with jokes, reminiscences and spicy yarns to illustrate a point. He has the ruddy, sun-seared face of an inveterate outdoorsman and the whooshy, sun-streaked hair of a surfer. Even his voice sounds a little sun-baked, drawly and dusty. He tears off the g’s in gerunds and spits them out, turning “something” to sumthin’ and “running” to runnin’. A modest potbelly is propped by loose Wranglers that conclude in a pair of scuffed cowboy boots.”