Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Therapy Dog's First Day

Yesterday was Isaac's first day as a therapy dog at a local nursing home.

Doesn't he look cute?

I didn't want him to wear his service dog vest because that means he's on duty.  It means, to him, that he's not supposed to socialize and stuff.  But I wanted something to mark him as a special dog.  So I went with a purple bandana.  I bought him a blue one, too.  For several days before his first day as a therapy dog, I let him wear the bandana for short periods of time around the house, to get used to it.  I had him perform various tasks and we played with toys and he got lots of treats.

Isaac did great and I think he had a really nice time.  He was really calm and just enjoyed meeting all the people.

I was surprised at the number of people that didn't want to pet him.  I expected a few wouldn't, for whatever reason, which of course is OK.  But there were more than I expected that didn't want to.

Of course, many people did want to pet him. A couple people ended up following us down the hall because after they'd had a turn petting him, they still wanted more time with him.

The activity director took us around to see everyone and she was moving kind of fast.  Hopefully in the future, either we will be able to go around ourselves or if she wants to take us around every time, I can get her to slow down a little.  I think several of the residents would have really liked to spend more time with Isaac.

It was a really interesting experience.  I viewed my job as just taking Isaac around, putting him in the right place, and then allowing him to do his thing.  I wasn't doing any type of "therapy" with people.  I was like Isaac's chauffeur or something.  And Isaac's job, the "therapy" he was doing, was just being himself.  It was a really beautiful thing to watch.

Several residents told me something about dogs they used to have.  One elderly woman told me that when he late husband proposed to her, she had told him she would only marry him if he would allow her to have a dog after they got married.  One man in the Alzheimer's unit seemed to think he recognized Isaac, that Isaac was a dog he'd known before.  He looked quite surprised to see him and said, "Why, you've gotten a lot bigger, haven't you?"  Another man in the Alzheimer's unit told the activity director, as he was petting Isaac's head, "This is the dog I've been telling you about!"

One woman in the Alzheimer's unit seemed unaware of anything that was going on around her.  When I asked her if she wanted to pet the dog, she didn't respond at first.  But then she moved her hand toward him, just a little.  I gently placed her hand on Isaac's head.  After a minute, she began to pet him.  Then she said, "He's furry."  I said, "Yes, he sure is furry."  Several times, she repeated that he was furry.  I told her his name and she repeated that.  I asked her what her name was and she answered me.  Then she said, "Do you think they would let me keep him?"  I promised her we would come back again to visit.

One woman was lying back in a recliner.  She really wanted to pet Isaac and he rested his head on the arm of the recliner so she could stroke his head.  Then I had him put his paws up on the arm of the chair and she said, "Oh!" and seemed surprised that he could do that.  Then she leaned over close to him and he gave her a little kiss on the nose.  She was delighted.  She kept touching her nose and saying, over and over again, "He kissed me!  He kissed me right here!  Right here, this is where he kissed me."  I told her, "That means he really likes you."

Another woman was sitting in a wheelchair.  Isaac sat right in front of her and she petted him for a few minutes, then he lay down across her feet.  She was delighted.  She told him it would be lunchtime soon and that the were having fried chicken and that if he stuck around, she would give him some of her chicken.  Several times, she said things like, "He could just stay here with me all day.  I'd be happy to keep him.  He could stay here with me in my room."  She was one of the residents that ended up following us down the hall so she could spend a little more time in his presence.

Another woman was so excited to see him heading across the room toward her that she jumped out of her chair and practically knocked some other chairs over in her hurry to get to him.  I told her she could sit down and I would bring him over to her but she couldn't wait.  She was just so thrilled to get to see him.

We are going to volunteer every Monday.  I can't wait to see what happens next time.


  1. I this this wonderful. And I think this is going to be good for you too.

    1. I think it will be good for both of us. I'm really looking forward to next week when we get to go back.