Saturday, May 4, 2013

Unexpected Therapy Dog Practice

The next steps in becoming certified as a therapy dog are not for a couple of months. But very unexpectedly, Chou Chou was "called to service" in a nursing/rehab center.

My mom got very sick last Friday and was hospitalized. After three days in the hospital, she was stable but very weak; to get her strength back, so she could walk again, she was discharged into a rehabilitation facility. 

As I filled out the paperwork for her admittance, I noticed a cage for a very large rabbit. The staff let me know that they like animals and welcome dogs to visit. What a wonderful idea! My mom always asks, "How is Chou Chou?" and she's very fond of the puppy -- Chou was gifted to me by my mom. So I thought a visit with Chou Chou would be a great way to cheer her.

The first time I went there with Chou Chou, my mom was asleep, so we left. But on the way out of her room, the people across the hall called to me, "Can we see your dog?" So Chou and I went over to greet them. One woman was in a wheelchair; I knew Chou wasn't afraid of wheelchairs because she's been around them in my mom's apartment building. They asked what kind of dog she is and they asked to pet her. I spent some time talking to the woman and her family and then we left. 

The next time I brought Chou Chou, my mom was awake and gave Chou and me a big smile. My sweet puppy responded by putting her head on my mom's bed. As sick as she was, my mom reached out to her furry visitor and looked comforted. 

As we walked to the front door after our visit, a woman in the hallway asked if she could pet Chou Chou. I knew to position Chou to sit by the side of the wheelchair, not the front, so the woman could pet her. 

A man nearby called out to us, "Can I pet her, too?" Again Chou sat at the side of the wheelchair; the man was a little rough with Chou's head and ears -- his hands didn't work the way he wanted them to -- but Chou didn't mind. ("I love all attention and adoration!")   

I realized that Chou was, in effect, doing animal-assisted therapy in a nursing home. And she's good at it. With certification, I still plan for us to go to libraries and schools for our volunteer work, but for right now, Chou Chou and I are where we're supposed to be: with my mom and the people around her.

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photo by Janet Smith

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