In a recent conversation with my brother, I learned how his German Shorthaired Pointer had become a therapy dog. As I mulled it over, one of my clients — who is a very special dog — came to mind. Raymond is a 14-year old Labrador Retriever. He is very affectionate, highly sociable with strangers (and children), calm in most situations, gentle and well mannered. When I raised the subject with his owner, she said, “Great idea. Let me know how I can help.”
I began the process by calling the local senior center. No good. They require that any dog working in their facility be certified as a therapy dog. I was reluctant to put Ray through a lengthy process due to his advanced age. Besides, after walking him for seven years, I knew he’d be perfect for the job.
To my relief, few skilled nursing/rehab facilities in the area had specific qualifications. Of course, they would want to meet Ray. But I knew he’d pass any interview process with flying colors. And just as I anticipated, he greeted every resident enthusiastically and calmly, allowing individuals in wheelchairs to pet him. One family member even inquired whether Ray could pay a one-on-one visit to her brother’s room.
I can’t say whether this is typical, but Ray seemed to know what his role was the moment we arrived. He definitely has the makings of a great therapy dog. When our time was up, and we walked back to my car, I said, “Buddy, did you have a good time?” “Woof,” he barked. And while I can’t speak for him, I know I felt better.
For more information about what it means to be a therapy dog, check out this helpful link: