Sunday, November 1, 2009

Therapy Dogs

Last spring my dogs and I became certified therapy dogs through Therapy Dogs Inc. Since then, we have become members of the therapy dog program at Maine Medical Center.

I was so nervous when Liam and I made our first visit. My tester and all around therapy dog guru, Mary, along with her super cool standard poodle Cato quickly put us at ease as we walked through the maze of hallways toward the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. I had no idea what to expect, or even what to do. What I did know was that my laid back dog had a rock solid temperament and although he is 27 inches at the withers and is a giant by most standards, he is gentle and has a soft and welcoming way about him. People are drawn to him like a magnet, and I knew it was ok if I didn’t know what to do; I would watch my dog and follow his lead. He would guide us into conversation with patients.

And guide us he did. I asked Liam to lie down so that he was less imposing to the kids. And the kids came to him, as they always do, touching his soft ears and long muzzle as he slowly wagged his tail. Some kids hugged him, while others stood in the doorway and just watched.

I stood there, proudly watching my big squishy dog and answering questions. What kind of dog is he?’ ‘How old is he?’ does he know any tricks?’ ‘Does he like to play ball?’

Since then, we have visited almost every area of the hospital. And I have found that the questions are the same regardless of the floor we visit. But I don’t mind. I love seeing the reaction of patients & their visitors as we enter the room. That moment that they forget how strange it is to see a dog in a hospital. I love that my dog can bring some kind of normalcy to a person who is in pain. I love that, because of my dog, I have made a human connection I would have not otherwise made. I love that my dog and dogs in general, have this kind of power over the human heart.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for my health and grateful for the dogs in my life. I am grateful that they, for a few moments, can make someone else as happy as much they make me happy.

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