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The Perfect Match: Child and Therapy Dog

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One of the benefits of hosting a Love Dog Story Time at the Therapy Center we partner with is to have the parents meet the Love Dogs and become familiar with having a dog as a part of the various therapies. Matchups can be made and children are often drawn to dogs we never imagined. And visa versa. A dog we thought would be a good fit with a particular child may not be.

So while we have stories on hand and read books together, the greater goal at these casual gatherings is to see how the children respond to the dogs. The handlers and dogs we invite to Story Time are already working at the Center so they are familiar with the various challenges the children experience and their dogs are comfortable in the setting. There are so many stimuli around from colors to toys to apparatus in the room, so we want the steadiest of dogs and experienced handlers.

Not only does it have to be the right fit between animal and child, it has to be the right fit between handler and client.

One such perfect match happened at a recent Story Time and now after just one private session, demonstrated the power of the animals.

I was asked to bring my teeny tiny Petey to meet one particular boy during Story Time. Because of the child's limited mobility they thought the smaller dog would be perfect sitting on his lap or next to him. Upon meeting however we quickly discovered the small dog was no match for this strong boy. His uncertain movements and unsteady hands made it difficult to find a safe position for Petey. And more importantly there really was no connection between this very alert, smart boy and my very quiet, still old dog!

So this young boy was helped to a wedge so he could lean on the floor in a sitting up position. And a very large Golden Retriever was brought over, Boise. As soon as this young boy saw this huge dog, he lit up. The sweetest smile. The dog was positioned lying down right up close to the child and a relationship was formed.

Soon after that first introduction this handler and dog were assigned weekly sessions with the child. And at the very first session, magic happened. With the guidance of a very experienced and skilled therapist, the child lifted up his head on his own to see Boise.

And he was able to hold on to Boise's fur to reach over to pet him. With very little assistance. His therapist was thrilled with these steps but everyone was even more delighted with the real magic that day.

This child was motivated. Motivated to work on his various therapies, motivated to look at Boise, touch Boise, listen to Boise's handler, move towards Boise, hug Boise, love Boise.

This little boy now has a Friend. Someone to help him through the difficult therapy sessions.

Someone to look forward to seeing each week as the weeks and months and years loom ahead of him.

And an owner who squeals with delight as one child and her dog make that critical connection.

For more information about the Love Dog therapy team in Las Vegas, visit www.lovedogadventures.com

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

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