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First therapy visits are so important

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Today I took Petey on first visits to two new facilities for the Love Dogs. Since it was Christmas Day we thought the clients would especially appreciate visits so I split up our time so Petey wouldn't get too tired.

When going to a new facility for the first time arrive early. Walk your dog around outside and let him smell and become familiar with where he will be taken to eliminate. Petey was such a good boy and peed right away!

It was very quiet in the first facility so we had a chance to walk all around the lobby and get Petey comfortable. Then we took an elevator ride. I was carrying him as slippery floors are not his friend. Many people stopped to say hello and this gave Petey a chance to greet people all the way up to our final destination.

When we arrived in the location we would be visiting, I wanted to assess the staff and clients to determine how much handling I could let Petey have. The first several people we met were fascinated by this tiny toothless dog with the big ears! They were quite gentle and able to have him cuddle on their laps. I did some assisted handling but they were really quite competent to hold him themselves.

I always had the leash in my hand and the dog within my control but they clients had such a sense of accomplishment holding him. Then I took out two small brushes and Petey had the time of his life being brushed by two people at once.

Then a new person entered the room where we were having a group visit and I saw right away she would not be capable of handling Petey on her own. She was what we call a "grabber." So while always being gracious with her, I turned Petey's body away from her so she could not grab his tiny head. I wrapped him in his blanket to give him a bit more stability and lowered him to her lap, all the while having my hands cradling him, not hers. She seemed fine with this and did not realize she was not actually the one holding him. She stroked his back and smiled and was very happy with this limited contact.

It is always up to the handler to make these determinations and decide the safest method of interacting with the clients. Our primary responsibility is the safety and comfort of our animals. And if this is done correctly and kindly, the client never even realizes they are being worked with differently than others.

Petey then went to say hello to the staff working on the holiday and they so appreciated meeting him. They knew he would be making his first visit today but I do not think any of them realized just how tiny he is!

This was long enough for a first visit and we did have a second stop to make, so we said our goodbyes.

Since Pet Partners suggests breaks for the animals every half hour or so, I knew when we arrived at our second stop just a few blocks way, Petey would have to go potty again. Perfect way to get familiar with the second new place!

So we drove a few blocks and when I took Petey out, yup, he had to go pee again!

We did the same kind of walk around and inspection of the facility. When we went inside, someone was coming out and asked if we could visit their family member. We made a note of the room so we could do this. It was great to be greeted so warmly and with such excitement. We were told the family member was missing the family dog so this would certainly brighten up the day.

We only spent a brief time at the second facility as Petey was getting tired. But we of course stopped by to see this particular client and the visit was a huge success.

Now once we establish our ongoing visiting schedule Petey will know the route, the smells, the people and settle in immediately.

I will do the same process with Benny as both dogs will visit these facilities and I want each dog to be comfortable. So we will have a second round of "firsts" with Benny soon!

Always make your first visits to a new facility short and pleasant and never stress your animal by staying too long.

To learn more about Pet Partners visit www.petpartners.org.

To learn more about Love Dog Adventures, visit www.lovedogadventures.com.

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