Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chou Chou in the Therapy Dog Photo Opp

Our animal-assisted therapy  organization scheduled a group photo on the steps of the State Capitol building, Sacramento. There are more than 100 certified therapy dogs and handlers. Could all these dogs -- with a few cats and rabbits -- sit together nicely for a group photo? Could Chou Chou do this? See what happened...

I signed up to participate. But in my mind, I pictured the worst: one dog barking -- at the other dogs, or the certified cats and rabbits, or at the squirrels scampering across the lawn -- and then 99 other dogs responding. Then a tangle of leashes wrapped around their people... Mayhem ensues!

I imagined that the labs would be fine. They might be asleep in the front row. The little dogs might bark and set off bigger dogs, but they could be safely tucked under their person's arms. Yikes!

I invited my friend Mary (without Chou Chou's friend Toffee!) to videotape the event. 

And I worried...  could Chou Chou sit still next to so many distractions? ("No worries! I've earned my ThD!")

Maybe Chou and I should be Photo Shopped into the picture instead? ("I'm offended!") Maybe everyone other than the older labs should be Photo Shopped in? But here's what actually happened:

Forty dogs signed up - no cats, no rabbits. As expected, Chou Chou was a whirl of energy at first -- her therapy dog friends were there! 

One of the officers, who has known Chou since we joined, suggested that for the photo, she should sit at the end of the row. So we sat and waited for the others to line up on the stairs. Mary was in front of the group, shooting video.

We were seated next to one one of Chou's friends from the after-school program, a sweet lab named Colbert. ("He doesn't mind when I nudge or sit on him!") 

I gave Chou Chou, then Colbert, a small piece of cheese, but  Colbert dropped his piece and it stuck in Chou's hair. Colbert tried to lick it off and Chou tried to get it, too; I pulled out a dog brush and tried to brush the soft cheese out, which made it worse. ("I hate sticky cheese in my hair! Don't you?")

Chou Chou squirmed, then settled down with all the other well-behaved dogs. The photo opp worked!

After the photos, after the teams dispersed to leave, I saw Mary in the distance, and this time, no camera... she had Toffee! Chou Chou saw him. She hadn't played with Toffee in a few weeks. Chou went on alert, focused, staring at her BFF as he walked with Mary around the Capitol Park trees in the distance. The therapy dogs were gone, the event was done. Chou had been the good therapy dog and now, I thought, she deserved some fun. I let her go.

I knew she wouldn't run away or go into the street. I knew she would run straight to Toffee. And that's what she did, with pure joy. She nuzzled him, pawed him, turned him in circles around Mary. If you saw her happiness, you'd smile for her. 

So she made it through the group photos and videos, tired herself out mentally and physically, and then went home to rest. ("Dreaming of Toffee, my BFF!")

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