For the Love of a Smile
First, let it be known, that becoming a therapy dog wasn’t my choice; mom thought it might be fun for her and me! She felt that corgis bring smiles and laughter to people of all ages because of our “short legs” and smiley faces. (Personally, I think my legs are just right and quite muscular!!)
When mom got to a “mature age”, she calls it, she felt a desire to “give back” to our local community and its citizens. Mom also had a selfish reason, she figures that, one day in the future, she will be in an assisted living facility or nursing home and she would like to think there would be some pup that could come visit her. So she feels she’s “paying ahead?” Because I love people and am so outgoing she felt this would become one of my “jobs”. Any herding breed parent knows we are a lot happier and less hyper if we have a job!!!! BOL
So my first “job” was getting my CGC. It’s not a requirement to becoming a therapy dog, but the Delta Society’s final practical exam has the same elements. So, mom enrolled me in obedience. (“Several times, as a matter of fact”, she says). After all that, “phew!” I passed the exam on my first try! Then mom had to follow a visiting team twice, (without me) after which we were both observed on our first two visits and evaluators made suggestions afterwards.
I go about once a month. I’d go more, but mommy doesn’t like to give me baths more than that. One of the rules with the Delta Society and many other recognized therapy dog organizations is that pups have to have a bath within 24 hours of a visit. Going this infrequently keeps really close relationships with patients from forming, not that they don’t anyway, especially with nursing home residents. Hospitals visits are easier, cause people are generally only there for a limited time.
In preparation for a visit, mom plays ball with me before visit. That way I can let my corgi spirits fly. (Actually, she says I’m obsessive! BOL) Working therapy dogs can’t be boisterous, noisy, or jumpy, so mom lets me get all that out of my system before we go and again afterwards as a reward for being so “well behaved”. I listen to mom pretty well and mom’s evaluators commented on my focus, on her. I have to still work on that cause I am always concerned about her, sometimes only her. It’s not bad, just that it should be all about the people we see and I want it to be about me!! Isn’t that what corgis want after all, to be the center of attention! I like men, too. At the nursing home, I sit in the chair between a couple of "guys" and let them talk "man stuff" to me.
My favorite part is before we end a visit; mom has me do a couple of tricks, like waving, bowing, and sitting up pretty. I like it when they clap or laugh and then we go while everyone is smiling or laughing. Mom's stories help everyone laugh and smile too, but I think it’s my intelligence and good looks!
Often patients who had pets want to visit with me and mom. She always asks if someone wants a visit. Then she will ask about any pets they may have had. Then she tells them about the history and lore of the corgi breed. One lady we visit always has a stuffed dog that she hugs. She thinks this is her pet from long ago. She doesn’t really hold me or pet me that much, but she likes to ask mom all about me and if I would hurt her puppy. When we leave, she always smiles. Once we visited the local hospital and visited a gentleman who had had emergency surgery. He lived in a remote area of the county and was going to be in the hospital for a couple of weeks. He missed his dogs, but said they wouldn’t do well visiting him (our local hospital does allow pets to visit family members) because they are used to being on a farm and have never been socialized. He just wanted to feel the soft fur and look into “doggie eyes”. I couldn’t get on the bed with him because he had a lot of tubes and stuff, so mommy put me on her lap for awhile while he petted me, sigh. (These types of encounters really make it worthwhile, mom says.)
In the future she also wants to involve us in interventions with young children involved in domestic violence issues and in foster homes without animals present. She’s found that kids especially will talk to us easier than adults and that we can make them smile, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Besides, I love kids and what child doesn’t like to throw a ball for a retrieving nut case!! Mom says this will take some additional training though because I’ve never dealt with anyone in a crisis situation and they might act out, so I need to learn to not react suddenly if someone yells or shoves me away. She said that means more training and more work, in other words, a “JOB”!
So what do I get out of it? FUN, (aka-ball chasing, food and lots of love from my mom) after all “It’s all about ME”, didn’t you know?
Timmy, your Redwood Country Corgi