The young girl was wearing her braces and trying so hard to walk far enough to reach her beloved therapy dog, Boise. First she practiced walking up and down stairs with the big dog standing at the base of the stairs. When she reached the dog, the Pet Partner vest was put to good use. The young girl unzipped one of the side pockets and started putting tiny toy characters inside. This simple activity worked on her balance holding on with one hand while working the other, eye/hand coordination, small motor skill improvement, eye contact with the dog and handler, ability to focus on a task, bending and using her knees to reach the standing dog's vest mid-section, ability to comprehend instructions and of course, the interaction with Boise.
They then moved to one of the therapy rooms and Boise got into place on a mat above some benches. The young girl walked parallel to Boise holding on to the benches. Once she reached the end where the dog's head was, she once again reached for the vest zipper. Now she had to open it and remove the little toys she had put in there. Then she walked the length of the benches with the toys in her hand to put them in the castle.
Sounds simple, right?
This effort took the full therapy hour and worked so many areas for the child. She loved working with Boise and even spoke a few words to him.
The reward for both dog and child was to have time to play with a Kyjen toy.
So many new activities have been developed to work with this one child, incorporating the skill of the chosen dog and handler.
Several of the Las Vegas Love Dog therapy program now have individual clients they work with at the Children's Therapy Center. Each child, each session, each need is different. And it changes every week as they get together. Because our therapists at the Center are so skilled in working with dogs, it is the perfect example of teamwork.
We start by identifying a child who could benefit from working with a dog. Then we identify the right handler/dog team and a therapist who wants to work with the animal and learn how best to harness the power of the animal therapy team. Then the fun begins!
What can a four year old boy do with Ginger that is different from what he does with Benny or Petey?
What can Julian do with Benny week after week while working with the same dog?
What can this new young client do with Boise that works on her very specific physical needs?
Once a match is made I step back and let the teams do their thing. They are all so talented and enjoying these assignments above all others. Every few weeks I observe a session without my own dog to learn what they are doing and monitor the program. These associations have become the flagship of the Love Dog Adventures / Pet Partner Community Partner programming.
One child, one dog, one handler, one therapist, one goal.