Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our First Therapy Dog Assignment

Tonight Chou Chou and I were scheduled for our first trainee shift as an animal-assisted therapy team, in a library.

But first, I had preparation to do. I needed to wear a red shirt, and I didn't have one. We just passed the evaluation 48 hours ago; I had to do some quick shopping. It looks like red is not the hot color for clothes this summer. There was pink and coral and different shades of orange, but not red. I tried one shopping center, then another. And I am not a person who likes to go shopping.

It was 4 pm and the program would begin at 6:15. I found a red knit top and bought it, rushed home, washed Chou Chou's paws, brushed her and combed her, put on my new red top, grabbed my new badge, her records of vaccines, and the sheet I would need to present to the team leader to evaluate us. I put a red barrette in Chou's hair, put on her red collar and red leather leash, and off we went! 

I had never been to this library before, but I set the car navigator and found it easily, and arrived early. I could see 3 other dogs walking with women in the red vests of our therapy group. I introduced Chou Chou and myself, and Chou started to pull me towards the other dogs. Not good. She was not listening to me. 

But then a young girl came over to us to chat. She spent a lot of time telling me about herself, hugging Chou Chou, and asking me questions about my puppy. Chou calmed down as soon as she came over. I've noticed before that when children are around, she senses that she needs to be gentle and calm. 

The girl walked in with us, and I met the team leader. Oh, no! After all my preparation and attention to details, she reminded me that I put on the wrong collar. I was thinking red, but I put on the leather collar when I am supposed to use the breakaway collar for these visits. I offered to go home and get it, but she said it would be okay just this time.

The library had a room set aside for these once a month therapy dog meetings. They had dog beds set out for each of the 5 dogs, and children started coming into the room with their books and their parents. The little girl sat on the bed with Chou Chou. Other children came over, too. Chou was the new pup in the program and she was popular! The children had picture books about dogs and Chou Chou heard a lot of stories and seemed to be looking at the pictures with the children. I was sitting on the floor, too, talking to the children and their parents, and always making sure Chou Chou stayed in her down.

The program lasted an hour. We were successful. I knew Chou would be perfect as a therapy dog. It was fun! ("It was! I had fun! Maybe we can come here again?")

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