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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?