Sunday, April 27, 2014

Therapy dog practice

We took a day away to visit Ron today and Harvey came along for the ride. Harvey is still being trained for certification as a therapy dog and we take him as many places as we can.

The retirement home where Ron lives is a small facility. They have a small dog, a shi tzu, that lives at the home and other times when we've visited, the little dog has been a bit territorial. Before we walked in I planned my strategy to keep the peace. I would have Harvey get into a down position to show deference.

As it turned out we arrived during a thunderstorm and the little dog named Boots was afraid and hiding. Harvey didn't have any encounters with him then at all, and he enjoyed greeting a couple of the other residents.

We took Ron out for lunch at Hu Hot in Manhattan...about an hour away from the home. We had lots of time for conversation with the long drive and with a relaxed lunch. It was a very good lunch, but as usual I felt obligated to eat too much since it is all-you-can-eat. It would seem that I should be able to resist that by now, but apparently not. 

When we took Ron back to the home, Boots was at the door and I could hear him barking even before he could see Harvey. We eased Harvey in and I told him to sit. Boots looked him over, sniffed, and walked away. End of confrontation. Harvey kept an eye on Boots, but there were no further interactions between them.

However, there WERE interactions of other kinds. People wanted to meet Harvey. We came into the common area near the dining room and  a couple of ladies were sitting near a table. They asked to meet Harvey so we walked over to them. Harvey would come close and let them pet him. Sometimes he would lay his head in their laps. If they leaned forward for a kiss, he'd oblige but he did not push his face up to theirs without an invitation.

Ron pointed to a community living room area where two more women were seated. Again they asked to have Harvey greet them so I directed him to them and he made friends. We moved back to the first area and there were more residents. Nurse aides were taking pictures. Other nurse aides were collecting more residents from down the hall. Harvey stayed at my side (I didn't take him off lead) and waited to be directed to greet people. Then when told to say hello, he would move in quietly and either wait close enough to be petted or place his head in a lap. People would ask for another turn. Harvey would oblige. 

How does he know this stuff? We haven't worked on greeting etiquette in this context at all, and at home we are still trying to teach him he can't rush the door when people arrive. 

It was great. He's not ready to be off lead yet, but he's certainly interested and has the right temperament. He is such a couch potato at home that I sometimes wondered if he would go out on a visit and end up lying down for a nap instead of visiting with people. That didn't happen today.

The fun part was that people seemed hungry for that kind of activity. They really wanted that contact with an animal, that touch, that warmth. Everyone in the room was smiling, their hands outstretched. Harvey wasn't frightened or nervous about the wheelchairs or the smells or the resident who muttered under his breath. He wasn't afraid of people who approached quickly and he didn't rush people who were hesitant.

It will be fun when he's certified and we can do this regularly.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Therapy dogs can be 'professional' when working, and have a separate home life. Ours attends a school five days a week. At home, there is little to indicate that she is a working dog. She has two personalities.

Anonymous said...

awesome! i love it!
~leah