|A few of the Danville Therapy Dog group (Therapy Dogs Inc) dressed in their Christmas regalia. L to R: Piper, Megan, Bonnie, Maggie and Bolt. Piper is not a registered therapy dog, he just tags along for outings.|
Since then I have taken each of my guide/service pups on therapy dog outings and find that some are natural-born therapy dogs - and some are not. My sweet, loveable guide pup, Emmy, enjoyed the excursions down rabbit-warren hallways and into rooms, but seemed to just be humoring me when it came to interacting with the residents. She would obediently sit, stiffly set her head in their lap in an obligatory fashion, then give me a sideways look as if to say, "Ok, I put my head here. She petted me. Now...can we go?"
In contrast, my over-the-top guide puppy, CeCe, who had such a difficult time with self-control when I took over her raising at the age of 9 months, turned out to be a natural at therapy dog work. Excited about everything, she seemed to intrinsically empathize with the nursing home and rehab residents resting in wheelchairs and beds. Her body would calm and her head sink with a sigh into their laps. Lifting her eyes to gaze up softly, she seemed to be saying "As long as you want me to stay, I will." What! My jaw dropped the first time I saw her do this. Dogs will amaze you.
|Piper's "Good Meter" is in the green zone!|
I enjoy therapy dog work on many levels. It is fun and
Piper and I were making the rounds through the home's large exercise room, when I noticed a lady slumped over in her wheelchair. Having just finished her workout, she was waiting to be wheeled back to her room. The woman looked completely done in, her body askew, head down on her chest, eyes closed. Her therapist stepped behind her and straightened her up in her chair. When she opened her eyes, I asked if she'd like to say hello to the dog. She weakly nodded, yes.
Piper came over and sat next to her, his head on a level with her resting arm. She slowly slid her hand over and stroked the top of his head and weakly asked, "What's his name?" I told her his name was Piper, as in Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. She kept stroking him, and then she started the tongue twister: "Peter Piper..." Yes, I said, that's right, so you know it too. She kept going, very slowly, "...picked a peck of pickled peppers."
As we talked she told me she had a stroke three months ago, back in September. She said it happened in her yard and there was nobody there but the neighbor's dog, whom she often fed biscuits. The dog then alerted people to her plight, which she thinks may have saved her life. As she says this in a low voice she keeps stroking Piper's head and fingering his ears. Piper stayed very still. Before saying goodbye, together we finish the tongue twister: "Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?" As she showed me her name on her bracelet, asking Piper and I to visit again, I noticed her voice was much stronger, her eyes were bright, she smiled.
|Piper with his dog family: Hazel (L) and Wrangell (R)|