Today challenged Benny as a therapy dog to the fullest. He worked with two very different clients and they both required him to try new things,.
When we arrived at the Therapy Center, Julian was obviously not having a good day. He had that "face" on and was not smiling, focusing, using his words. Nothing.
Maybe he was tired or there were too many songs in his head.
His therapist suggested he spend some time in the "balls." The Balls is a box filled with hundreds of small and large balls that kids can burrow down in to relax or play.
I had Benny with me and we had just attached his second leash for walking and before I knew it Julian was walking Benny to the Ball Box!
Julian got inside and for the first time today a big smile spread across his face. Then he invited Benny to join him!
I wanted to make sure it would be safe for Benny. Benny is not toy driven at all but he does enjoy a good game of fetch with a ball. Would seeing hundreds of balls excite him? Not Benny. He knew he was working and just looked into the box with his paws on the side.
Could he be lifted over safely and put down gently?
Why not? I put Benny in the box and now our two boys were deep amongst the balls. I kept a good grip on him keeping him hovering a bit above the balls so he did not sink into them. There were so many!
When Julian had enough time in the balls, we helped Benny out and he calmly walked back to our therapy room.
What a great dog to not be afraid to try something new and to so totally trust me that he would always be safe.
Our next appointment was with an adult who is recovering from a stroke. We wanted Benny to motivate her to press on with her rehab. She had met Benny before and seemed to really enjoy the dog. So we were invited back for fifteen minutes of her therapy session. We were going to see if she would walk with Benny by her side.
She absolutely squealed with delight when she saw Benny! I attached a very light second leash and we showed her how to hold it gently with her compromised hand. Then off we went. We walked all around the rehab room, with Benny perfectly keeping pace with our client. Every time she stopped to rest, he stopped. If she needed a moment to take a breath, he laid down to wait.
They walked further than anticipated and then we sat down so our client could brush Benny. Then we had her remove the second leash from Benny, a very difficult task using her challenged hand to unclip the leash.
The fifteen minute appointment stretched to almost an hour. Both the Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist made good use of Benny and were the perfect partners for us to work with.
Benny never disappointed. The dog that was returned to the rescue several times in his first year of life and deemed "unadoptable" proved to be the most natural therapy dog. He understands his role and thrives when working.
Today was a great day for dog, handler, therapists and clients. This is what therapy dogs should do - improve lives one paw at a time!