Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Therapy Dog


My Mom wakes up before me and gets ready for work, while I continue to get my beauty rest.  When she is ready to leave, she lifts up the blanket, where I am completely hidden, and says, “Wake up, little guy.”   I flop onto my back and allow her to rub my belly. This makes us both happy. Then I get some snacks, don my Therapy Dog uniform, and check the mirror to make sure I’m looking good.  After our morning walk, we drive to work.  Mom usually drives, because my legs are too short to reach the pedals, and besides, she needs the practice.

Once we are at the hospital, it takes us a long time to reach our office, because everyone in the hallway wants to say hello to us.  Well, they are mostly saying hello to me, and they tell my Mom that I’m cute and adorable.  I have to stop and chat with all of my friends, especially in front of the ICU, which is across the hall from my Mom’s office.  All these nice strangers are just friends that I haven’t met yet.   While my Mom checks her email, I wrap myself like a burrito in my blanket and curl up for a little nap in my office bed.  (I have beds everywhere so I can nap at a moment’s notice.)  On the way to our ward, we must stop and say hello to more of our friends in the halls.  People call out, “Hi, puppy!” “Hi, baby!” and “Hi, cutie!”  I love them all. 

Once we arrive at our ward, I stop at the nurse’s station and greet everyone.  There is much joyous hugging and kissing.  The nurses and staff take turns carrying me in their arms.  Then we meet with the rest of our team to discuss our patients together, and I take turns sitting on everyone’s  lap. They pet me while we are meeting, and I feel I am helping them to start their day with some love from me. My Mom says that on the days when I stay home to rest, everyone is so disappointed that I’m not with her.  People automatically look towards Mom’s knees, expecting to see me. She just looks so incomplete without me.

 Then it is time to make rounds.  My Mom carries me into the patients’ rooms.  First my Mom asks if the nice people like dogs and if they don’t (how is that possible?), my Mom continues holding me.  If they are sensible people and do like dogs, then my Mom asks them to clean their hands with hand sanitizer so we don’t transmit any germs.  Then she places me on their lap or bed.  I snuggle with them and they pet me all over, while my Mom talks to them.   They always feel better after I have had some time with them. And I feel better, too. Did I mention that I love them all?

My Mom and I also sometimes go to meetings together.  I keep everyone mellow and happy.  I like to think I set the right tone.  Even though I am usually very serious at work, I sometimes like to show my playful side too.  I use my teeth to tug off my Mom’s socks and then fling them in the air.  Everyone laughs.  It’s important for people to understand that work can be fun too.  

When our work day is over, we take a nice walk before going home. Nice people still call out to me in the halls as we are leaving, and I run up to them to say hi. Then I take a nice restful nap on the car ride home, thinking about how lucky I am - I have the best job in the world. All I do is make people happy. 

When we get home, Mom gives me a nice warm bath, which I love. Then I run around our home and play happily with my toys and with my Mom. Bath-time really perks me up into a playful mood!  If I have a really long work day, my Mom lets me stay home to rest on the following day.   My Mom doesn’t want me to get burned out.  Being a Therapy Dog is tiring, but I love healing people and making them happy.  It’s not really a job.  It’s who I am.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How I Found My Mom at the SPCA

People sometimes ask how my Mom got so lucky in finding a dog as special as I am.  But really, I am the one who got lucky. Or let’s just say, we both got lucky.
 It all started at the SPCA.  Before she became my Mom, she had been thinking about adopting a dog to train as a therapy dog for the skilled nursing facility, where she works.  One day, she decided to stop at the SPCA Adoption Center, not really expecting to find the perfect dog on the first try.  (Little did she know!)  I heard her talking outside my room with a staff member. She said that she felt kind of sorry for me, because I looked lonely—all the other dogs had roommates, but at the moment I did not.   She looked lovingly at me through the glass wall, as I sat like a lion on my pallet and looked majestic.  At first I didn’t look at her too much.   After all, I didn’t want to look uncool.   Then I heard her tell the staff member that she was looking for a particular type of dog.

           “I need a small dog,” she said.
My ears perked up. I came closer to the glass. I’m a small dog.  In fact, I could fit in a purse, though I don’t care to travel that way.  It’s just not dignified.

                “Someone really mellow,” she said.
          Why, my nickname is “Mellow Yellow”!  I meditate every day.
                “But friendly.  I need a dog that won’t be afraid of strangers.”
          My tail started to wag furiously, like a metronome.   Oh! I am soooo friendly!

Before I could tell her to come inside my room, because I was the perfect dog for her, she walked away.  “Come back!” I wanted to cry.  She walked all around the Center and looked at all of the other dogs, and then after a few minutes (which felt like forever) she came back to me.  I stared hard at her through the glass wall.  “Look into my eyes, look into my eyes,” I said, as I willed her to look at me.  She could not resist my animal magnetism.  Our eyes met.  And the world opened up in that moment.  Just like that we fell in love. 

She came inside to meet me, and I wagged my tail wildly and stood up on my hind legs to get closer to her face. She sat down on a chair and I put my front paws on her knees, as if to say, “Pick me up!”  What else could she do but pick me up?  (Mom doesn’t like to admit it, but I have her wrapped around my little paw.)  I lay in her arms like a baby.  I put my head on her shoulder and she nuzzled the top of my head.  It was the greatest feeling to know that she loved me as much as I loved her.

            And the rest is history.  Mom says that she knew I was the One for her, from the very first moment she saw me. Just like I knew, too. She only walked away because she wanted to say hi to all the other dogs, before she came in to take me home! 
            So, go the SPCA and pick up a Mom or a Dad today.  I highly recommend it! 
We come in all shapes and sizes.  And so do the humans.  Something for everyone.   
You will be best friends, just like me and my Mom.  Some things are just meant to be.