About 10 o’clock this morning, the receptionist comes into the back and says, “The kids are here.”
“What kids?” I asked.
“The YMCA kids,” she responded. “Oh- did you not know about that?”
Apparently, the YMCA down the street was really reaching for things for the kids to do and had arranged a mini tour of our hospital, which no one thought to tell me about. Normally I would be OK with taking kids around for a brief visit, but at this particular moment in time my RVT was wrist deep in a handful of bloody tooth extractions. I don’t really think that is the type of feel good experience they were looking for.
So our manager took them through the exam rooms and then parked them in the lobby for an impromptu lesson on how to greet a dog. Fortunately for us, Kekoa was at work and happy to take on the job (as opposed to Brody, who probably would have knocked the kids over like bowling pins in his enthusiasm).
She trotted out, plopped compliantly down at my side, and sat there happily while we discussed how to greet a dog. Then, for lack of anything better to offer them, I told them to line up and if they wanted, practice their dog-approaching skills one by one.
I can’t imagine getting to go up and pet a dog is the type of thrilling field trip experience they were expecting to get when they signed up for summer camp, but they were happy enough to oblige. Each of the kids, from the 6 year olds on up to the 12 year olds, got in line and got some licks, except the kid who told me, 5 feet from her face, “I’m allergic to dogs!” (we steered him off to a safe distance).
Koa was so good. She was polite, pleasant, and happy to kiss. I’ve never had a dog that I really felt had the temperament and the inclination to be a therapy dog, but she was so perfect with those kids that it really struck me- she could do that. I wonder if her separation anxiety would be a problem, but assuming in a situation like this where I would be with her the entire time, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Dogs bring something out in people that oftentimes other people cannot. I love that.
Has anyone out there done a program like this, not for service animals but for pets who just go out for visits and cheer people up? Anyone go through Delta Society? Anyone have a way to add an extra day in the week so I have time to do all this?
Congratulations on a great field trip. I am not surprised Kekoa was so good. From the first photo you could see her kind and gentle soul inside, just waiting for someone to love her. You probably did more good than you realize. Most parents don’t teach their parents how to greet a dog they don’t know and there are many nips & bites or other traumas becuase of it. I know our nursing home here would be grateful for such a calm visitor!
The more you post about Kekoa the more I am sure that someone dyed my old dog Ruby black and sent her over to California to keep Brody company.
Jenn D. says
Awww, I love Koa stories!
Many of my clients have gone on from obedience training to therapy work. Along with the therapy testing (each organization has their own tests), Koa would also need to pass the Canine Good Citizen test; the only part that may be difficult for her would be the 3 minutes with a stranger.
All of my clients that do therapy work love it. Their dogs are not service dogs or anything else specialized – they’re family pets who enjoy visiting nursing homes and other facilities a few times a month. Koa would probably love the calm, loving attention she would get in such a setting.
Along with Delta, there is also Therapy Dogs Inc and Therapy Dogs International. Usually, each therapy organization has a local group that visits specific places each month. If you are interested, I would contact the local therapy groups to see where they go and when, and choose an organization from there.
I’ve never had a dog with the temperament and inclination either, but there is a program here called Pets for Life that does this very thing. They are a non-profit, and I support them since I my dog isn’t a good candidate for volunteering. I think Koa would be an awesome animal-assisted therapy dog. She just radiates sweetness when you look at her! Here’s more scoop on Pets for Life (although I know you’re not close enough to participate, it gives more info on the types of places they visit): http://kcpetsforlife.com/mpc/docs/Site/About%20Us.html
Lisa W says
I would have LOVED a field trip in which I got to pet and kiss a dog. Heck, I’d like to leave work every now and then and just get a doggy fix without having to wait until the end of the day when I pick my babies up from day care,
Good girl, Koa!
Our local library has a program a couple Saturdays a month that pairs struggling readers with a dog (and handler) and the kids spend 20 or so minutes reading aloud to the dog. I’ve heard of other schools doing this–maybe check with Z’s school?
My golden is a therapy dog thru the Cincinnati SPCA. I am also the test administrator for the program so I get to test all the dogs that are trying to be in our program. In order to be eligible to take our therapy test we require all dogs to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test first. In that test there is a 3 minute required seperation from your dog while the test administer holds him/her. If you are worried about the seperation anxiety that would be a good test to start with. I think Delta Society and Therapy Dogs International would be good programs to look up in your area. Therapy work is so rewarding, good luck with the process! 🙂 Contact me if I can be of any more help 🙂
caren gittleman says
When I was waiting to have one of two lithotripsies there was a gorgeous lab that made the rounds with a “handler”. He wasn’t a therapy dog, he was more of an “Ambassador Of Goodwill”. Seeing him and petting him helped to take people’s minds off of the procedure they were about to have (including me!) This was at St.John-Providence in Novi, Michigan.
I also know of dogs AND cats who reside or visit nursing homes (they are also not therapy animals) they are just there to offer comfort and to bring smiles to the residents.
Cat Chat Caren http://opcatchat.blogspot.com
caren gittleman says
unless I misread I don’t believe she is questioning how to have her dog become a therapy dog, she wanted to know how to get her dog involved in just visiting and offering warm fuzzies and bringing a smile to people….read the last paragraph, I believe that is what she is looking for. “just for visits and to cheer people up”
Cat Chat Caren http://opcatchat.blogspot.com
Emmett and I are a pet partners team through Delta Society. He loves (loves!) working with kids. I take him to the library, elementary schools, fairs, etc., and it’s amazing to watch how well the kids relate to a dog. Recently, we started visiting a mental health hospital that has a residential program for young kids. Seeing those kids break out of their shells, play, smile, and just be kids has been so rewarding for me. And as far as the time commitment, most of the facilities are so grateful to have you that they’ll work around your schedule!
Shelley @ Green Eggs & Hamlet says
Koa is such a love bug; I hope you really had her in some bunny ears while she greeted the kids. 🙂
I’d love to take my Boston Terrier as a therapy dog and your post has been just the thing to spur me into research mode. I hope you do a follow-up post if you and Koa decide to go ahead.
Jennifer A. Stewart DVM says
I can put you in touch with some therapy groups up here in North County for some ideas on the methods of going about joining a Therapy Dog group but regarding that extra day….I’ll have to consult my crystal ball my pretty. (followed by mad cackling).
Dr. V says
That would be super. And SO JEALOUS you have a crystal ball, the best I can do is my Magic 8 ball.
Finn and I do this through Pets On Wheels. You will have to pass the temperament and training tests for whatever organization you choose. It’s very rewarding, and means so much to the people you visit. Only takes a couple hours out of a day, depending on how far you have to drive.
Annette Frey says
This could be really great for Koa and might even help her with her issues. She may need a job. I believe this is something you both do together.
The Delta Society is the main one right? There was a local one in NYC I went to with Starr and it was a nightmare. 20 people who came all thought it was a one on one and the place was disgusting filthy. We left.
I’d say go with one that has a good reputation and check them out first.
Abby's Mom says
I used to visit a retirement home with my rabbit, through a group at our local animal shelter. Both Flopsey and the residents loved it. Often he was just a jumping off point to conversations with the residents about their lives and pets they had had when they were younger. We only went one day a month and I bet there are other programs that would have a similarly small time commitment.
I checked out the local Delta program but didn’t sign up-Like Ms. Frey, I thought it should be one on one training, not group. One of our dogs would have been a great therapy dog. She is calm, thrives on human attention and obeys commands-so long as she doesn’t see a squirrel. We often go for walks and she stops and visits with her many human admirers and gives them kisses. She seems to especially like senior citizens and five year old kids. She much prefers being around humans than dogs. Our other dog is exactly the opposite.
If you decide to go through Delta they have a 16 hour training for the human followed about two weeks later with a team evaluation which is similar to the Canine Good Citizen. Once we passed our team eval we joined a local group and we (my black lab May)and I) read at the libraries with kids for an hour on Sunday. Other of our group members visit other facilities such as schools, nursing homes and mental healh facilities as well as having booths to inform the public about animal activities. In our group you can work as little or as much as you want, so maybe you won’t need a whole day of extra time, maybe just an hour. Good Luck to you and your Lovely Lab Koa.
Fort Worth Veterinarian says
Daisy's Barbara says
I used to take my dog to local care facilities. It was amazing to watch as people who wouldn’t get out of bed, or talk to others, would come “alive” when my dog approached. Delta Society has been doing this for a long time and would be a good resource in the US.
Our newest addition just passed her therapy test through TDI — http://www.tdi-dog.org/ — and she has her first visit to an autism camp on Tuesday! She was already visiting a retirement home monthly, where she would greet the residents gathered in the sitting room, going to each to say hello and accept lots of affection. 🙂 One element of our test was being able to stay with the tester for 3 minutes while I walked out of sight, and while she does have a little barking/separation anxiety at home, she did just fine.