MY DOG THE THERAPIST - A Therapy Dog's Tale

Have you ever wondered if your dog would make a good Therapy Dog?  Right from the start Icy had that rare gentle, sweet disposition that made her ideally suited for the Therapy Dog role she would have 2 years later.  The key attributes of a successful therapy dog are a gentle temperament, being well socialized, and solid basic obedience skills.  She inherently possessed the first quality, it was up to me to help her develop the socialization and obedience skills she would need as a Therapy Dog. 

Icy in front of the Christmas Tree at a local Nursing Home where she visits residents weekly.  I don't show photos of the residents to respect their privacy

A Therapy Dog is not a Service Dog.  Their job is mainly to offer comfort, emotional support, and smiles!  Icy just knows how to make people smile, even people who aren’t “dog people” are drawn to her.  I knew early on that becoming a therapy dog was somehow her calling, and I wanted to help her achieve that.  Dogs must be at least a year old to become a therapy dog, so when she was 18 months old Icy and I enrolled in a class to prepare us for the challenging requirements of the Pet Partners Therapy Dog evaluation.  My friend Paulette also enrolled in the class with her beautiful Keeshond, Tebow. 

Icy at a mall during her training, curiously checking out a Carousel

One day we took the dogs to an outdoor mall to practice our skills.  No sooner had we arrived at the mall when people started approaching us, asking to pet the dogs.  “Of course!” we’d say.  The dogs solicited smiles, laughter, and lots of pet parent stories in the people who stopped to visit with them.

A sad looking woman approached Icy and quietly asked to pet her.  As she stroked Icy, she began to talk about her German Shepherd, who had recently died.  As she talked, it was apparent that the loss of her dog was traumatic and she was having a terrible time dealing with it.  After petting Icy for awhile, she suddenly grabbed her and hugged her closely.  Tears rolled down the woman’s face as she spoke about how much her dog had meant to her and how terribly she missed him.  She was letting her tears and emotions out, allowing herself to be comforted by Icy.  It was truly an amazing thing to witness.  
She left after about 20 minutes, smiling and thanking us for letting her pet our dogs.  Paulette and I looked at each other, shocked at the sudden change in this woman’s mood from sad to bright and cheerful.  “I think we just did Therapy Dog work” I said "and we're still in training!"  It was such a great feeling knowing that interacting with our therapy-dogs-in-training helped lift this woman’s sadness, even if only for awhile.

After that, Icy laid down, emotionally drained by the experience.  Paulette and I decided it was time to take our “Therapists” home. 

Icy walking through a crowded Apple computer store during her training

Any breed or type of dog can become a therapy dog, it's really about their individual temperament and personality.  If you're interesting in learning more about becoming an animal therapy team visit the Pet Partners web site.  Therapy Dogs International (TDI) is another organization through which your pet can become a therapy animal. There are several other therapy dog organizations.

Icy at a Stress Busters event at a local college where students took a break from finals to visit Therapy Dogs and unwind.  I obtained permission from the students to post event photos.

Please visit my blog post on the children’s reading programs Icy participates in and how Therapy Dogs can help children improve their reading skills!

Did you know some Puppies are Being Raised in Prison for a life of service?

Is your dog a therapy dog?  If so, please share how your dog helps people in need, by leaving a comment.  I’d love to connect with other therapy dog handlers, and organizations who utilize therapy dogs as well so please share your blog URL in a comment and let’s connect!


Unknown said...

wow!!! What a powerful story about the lady who lost her shepherd. I can just imagine how much she need to grieve about her lost pet, and how much Isis helped her do that. Way to go guys!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Thanks Jenna! I think Therapy Dog work is the most rewarding thing I've ever done. Thanks for stopping by today!

Jans Funny Farm said...

That would be a gratifying experience, to know you and your dog helped someone to cope with their pain.

Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them said...

Yes, it really is. Worth all the training and testing! Thanks for stopping by today, Jan!

Impurrfectlife said...

Wow ! I had no idea Icy started so early. It's wonderful that therapy dogs have the ability to help heal and alter people's moods for the better. I love that therapy dogs even exist because I feel like the impact is so much stronger and long lasting as compared to popping pills. You and Icy are helping to implement real positive change in this crazy world. Kuddos!

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