Not Certified, But Therapy Dogs None-the-Less

My dogs, Elsie and Sophie, might not hold official therapy dog certificates, but to me anyway, they are therapy dogs none-the-less. And they have stepped up to the plate in this role time and time again. This post is about just one of those times…

Maybe I’ve been thinking about my dogs in their therapy role lately because earlier this month I watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and I couldn’t help but notice how often it was mentioned that participating dogs were also certified therapy dogs.

Or maybe it’s because six years ago my family and I moved my mother into a full-time care facility due to her rapidly deteriorating health resulting from metastatic breast cancer. Shortly thereafter, our various family dogs began visiting that care facility on a regular basis.

I think this is more likely the reason.

I was and am thrilled that more and more hospitals and other care facilities are now allowing pets to visit patients, or if patients’ pets are not allowed, therapy dogs are. Such visits can be wondrously beneficial. I witnessed first-hand how beneficial such visits can be, not only for ill patients and their families; but also for the doctors, nurses, aides and other miscellaneous people one encounters in such facilities.

My mother was one of the lucky ones in this anyway. While living out her final weeks in that care facility, she had numerous visitors of the four-legged variety. Just like the rest of the family, our family dogs were allowed, even encouraged, to visit 24/7 at her care facility, something I will always be grateful for.

Our entourage of family pets made quite the grand entrances, not all at once mind you. We were always careful to bring in just one furry friend at a time and only at certain times of the day.

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Mandi

My parents’ cairn terrier Mandi made numerous visits. She generally made her presence known upon entrance with a few barks as if to say, “Here I am.” At other times when visiting, she felt compelled to alert us about noisy food carts rambling down the hallway or unannounced visitors popping into Mother’s room. Understandably, she never quite felt completely relaxed in that unfamiliar setting.

Who would?

Well actually, my brother’s cairn Radar did, and so he probably visited most frequently of all our dogs. Radar looks exactly like Toto of the Wizard of Oz fame and possess a calm, yet confident demeanor. Radar made himself right at home each time he arrived, as if he’d been visiting care facilities his entire life. (And he was just a pup at the time). Upon each visit and before settling in for a nap on his favorite spot, his mission seemed to be to make friends with as many patients, staff members and other visitors as possible. If there was a skeptic anywhere in the vicinity, Radar set about to “convert” him/her and he almost always did.

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Radar 

Dear daughter’s mutt Ace also made an appearance all the way from North Dakota, where they lived at the time. Ace is a big, leggy, lovable, black-labbish-looking sort of mutt. His only fault is that he drools a lot, but that’s not his fault and in fact, seems to make him even more lovable for some reason.

What’s a little dog drool, right?

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Sophie 

Sophie, our English springer spaniel, made a few visits as well. Sophie has a wonderful go-with-the-flow disposition. A person instantly feels better just by looking at her. Sophie wasn’t entirely comfortable in that strange place either with its far too many worrisome smells and sounds. But none-the-less, she was her usual cheerful self and successfully made everyone she encountered feel better as she made “rounds” of her own dispensing a special kind of “medicine” herself while wagging her stump-of-a-tail and displaying her sweet “smiling” face.

Elsie, our golden, did not visit. Elsie takes her “worrying about her people job” very seriously. She would have been too stressed out in such an environment, or maybe it’s me that would have been too stressed out worrying about her being stressed out. Regardless, one does have to respect each dog’s unique personality traits; some dogs are suited for such visits and some are not. Elsie was/is better suited to doing her “therapy work” from the comforts of home.

Looking back now, I realize we did get our share of looks, smiles and chuckles and even a few scowls (although very few) whenever one of us visited with a dog in tow. And admittedly, their presence was more for our benefit than it was for Mother’s. She was pretty much ambivalent toward most things by that point in time.

Still, being around our pets was a much-welcomed bit of normalcy during a very difficult and abnormal time, and it definitely provided more than a small amount of comfort, even joy, to a fair number of people and not just in my family. At such times, joy can be hard to come by. Pet therapy is one way to find some.

Thank you Elsie, Sophie, Ace, Mandi and Radar! (Sorry, Ninja; we didn’t have you yet).

Thank you to all the pet therapy animals out there, certified or not, who bring smiles to many day in and day out.

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Ace and Elsie 

Have you ever owned, trained, known or been visited by a therapy animal of any kind?

Do you have or know a special therapy pet? (no certificate required!)

Have you ever taken a pet to a hospital or care facility of any kind?

 

 

 

 

15 comments


  • FacingCancer.ca

    February 27, 2014

    :) I really enjoy reading about your dogs. Makes me think again about getting a dog ourselves. They certainly have a healing presence. ~Catherine

    • Nancy

      February 27, 2014

      Catherine, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. All pets have a healing presence I think. There’s something extra special about dogs though. Let me know if you do decide to get one. That would be awesome! Thanks for commenting.

  • Lindsay

    February 27, 2014

    I enjoy bringing my dog out in public and I’ve always wanted to take him to nursing homes or schools. My cat Beamer could also be pretty good at this. The problem is making the commitment to actually take them and possibly get them registered or certified. Guess that can be a goal for this year.

    • Nancy

      February 28, 2014

      Lindsay, Ace would make a fantastic official therapy dog. Of course, he already is one as far as I’m concerned. And yes, I can see Beamer as a therapy cat. I hope you do take either, or both of them, to a care facility or school sometime. I know the time commitment is a huge deterrent, but maybe… Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Claudia Schmidt

    February 28, 2014

    Hi Nancy! While I was still going through chemo, they brought a Golden Retriever lab in for visits on some of the Friday’s and it was really nice to have a happy, calm dog to pet during the hours of chemo….I think it’s a great idea. AND, our dog, Tucker (a Welsh Pembroke Corgi) was by my side throughout all my treatments. He was wonderful; seemed to know how close he could sit on my bed during those days when I was just really wiped out, and yet stayed close enough to let me know he was “worried.” It’s amazing how much unconditional love a dog can give. You have such gorgeous dogs, yourself! Thanks for sharing them with us!! xo

    • Nancy

      March 2, 2014

      Claudia, I am very partial to goldens! I wish there would have been dogs in my chemo room. That would have been wonderful. So glad you had your Tucker during treatment. What a delightful breed and yes, dogs do seem to sense just what we need. Thanks for the compliment about my dogs. They are pretty dear to me and my whole family. Spoiled too! ha. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • Mandi

    March 2, 2014

    This brings back memories. After my mastectomy, apparently, I asked for my dogs while still not fully “back to the real world.” My husband asked if he could bring a dog, and they said of course! My husband brought one of the dogs that evening. I was shocked, amazed and in love with the fact that the hospital understood these kinds of things. Unfortunately the dog was super scared of the hospital and was taken home after a short visit.

    • Nancy

      March 3, 2014

      Mandi, That is amazing! It’s incredible that one of the first things you did upon waking up was to ask for you dogs. That says a lot. It’s wonderful your hospital allowed your husband to bring one in. Can’t say I blame your dog for being super scared. I’m sure he provided lots of good pet therapy when you got home. Thank for reading and sharing about that memory.

  • Nicole Reneé

    March 3, 2014

    Nancy,

    I so enjoyed reading this and seeing your gorgeous puppy pics! As an animal lover and owner of a precious German Shepherd, I can attest to the amazing “therapist” my dog has been to me — (I even did a blog post last year called Unconventional Therapy with a German Shepherd Named Miles) lol

    He’s never left my side since diagnosis, through chemo, bilateral mastectomy, radiation … he encouraged me all the way through and continues to lift me up when I’m down. Though not certified, he’s my unconditional hero.

    Thank you for your wonderful posts. I cherish them all.

    xoxo Nicole

    • Nancy

      March 3, 2014

      Nicole, I’m glad you liked it. Dogs are indeed amazing “therapists” during stressful times. I just read your post and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for the heads up about it. Thank you for reading and commenting on mine. You’re very kind to say you cherish my posts. What a lovely thing to say. Thank you.

    • Lindsay

      March 19, 2014

      Aww, I love German shepherds. They can be such loyal dogs.

  • Beth L. Gainer

    March 20, 2014

    I never brought my pets to hospitals, but my brown tabby cat Cosette was my nursemaid. She’s not certified, but boy did she take care of me during cancer diagnosis and treatment. She never left my side. She purred me to sleep, and she jumped in my lap when I was crying.

    She is so very special to me.

    Thank you for writing this post. I think therapy animals should be allowed into hospitals and such because they do so much more good than anything.

    • Nancy

      March 20, 2014

      Beth, No wonder Cosette is so special to you! She was there through some rough times. Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

  • Beth L. Gainer

    March 20, 2014

    By the way, I LOVED hearing about your pets and seeing their pictures. Soooo cute!!

    • Nancy

      March 20, 2014

      Beth, Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the post.

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