A memory came up on my Facebook feed this morning today, 4/30/2018, about it being 1 year since Elsa and I became a registered Therapy dog team with Pet Partners! What is especially great and fitting about it is that today is National Therapy Animal Day!
We studied hard and practiced for our first test as a team and passed with the first level of “predictable” which defines the types of environments where we can volunteer. Based on how we have done this year, we likely are ready to test for more advanced settings like hospitals. (Building Paws for Kids for Paws is more of a priority at the moment so we’ll look at upgrading when we have time. 🙂 )
It has been a fun year with visits twice a month each at:
- Dupage Paws for People – During the school year, we visit several different special education classrooms in Dupage County for visually impaired students.
- Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook Senior living facility (Year round)
Some Things I have Learned
Elsa & I have learned a lot in the past year and we learn more each time we do a visit. A few things I’ve learned about therapy team work:
- Elsa really loves it and really likes the visits.
- Sometimes all it takes it for the animal to be nearby to give the person benefit. Some of the people who are afraid of dogs are able to relax around the dog while other people interact more actively. Over time, some of them start to pet her or be closer.
- Elsa makes the rounds… She knows who of the regulars really like her and give her special things, so makes a point to visit them.
- Follow your dog’s lead!
- Elsa often seems to know who needs her visit, picking out specific people, especially the kids, who seem to be needing something or having a bad day. She goes over to them and sits near them, even if they don’t reach out.
- It is actually tiring for the animals – Elsa needs a nap after each visit, sometimes starting her snooze at the end of a visit, which is a signal it is time to wrap it up. The animals think a lot and work in different ways, using up a lot of energy.
- Once in a while, she sees someone who she insists on meeting – something about them is special to her. For example, one time a caregiver came into the senior building during a visit and Elsa alerted to her, then called out with a friendly “Woo Woo” to get the woman’s attention. The woman looked up and went about her business. When she was leaving the building, Elsa called out longingly again to her. The woman looked surprised. I let her know Elsa really wanted to meet her, which she was OK with. Elsa acted like she had known her for years!
Celebrate Therapy Animals!
So join me in celebrating Animal Therapy teams everywhere and the one-year anniversary of Elsa and me serving in that role.