So often therapy teams forget there must be joy in our work. Of course we want to have empathy not sympathy and express proper emotions when the atmosphere is somber. But remember that we are there to bring a bit of lightness and relief to any situation. Whether we are there for Animal Assisted Activities or Therapies, our presence brings something joyful to the room.
The human end of the leash wants to be calm and pleasant and happy and the animal as well. In the Pet Partner Handler Workshop we spend considerable time discussing what is appropriate interaction with clients and we always stress the importance of being a bright happy moment in their day.
Often we are the only people the staff and clients interact with other than medical personnel. One place the Love Dogs works with weekly has never let in any volunteers before and the staff work long shifts doing very challenging work. We are an opportunity for new conversation with the staff as well as the kids who live in this group home. The staff gets to know our dogs and us as volunteers and we learn about them.
The connection is real and something to be celebrated. When a person or animal is not well, everyone wants to know. When we lose an animal, as we did with Kirby, everyone is saddened and there for the human end of the leash. When we bring in a new team, everyone wants to celebrate their success and guide them along.
But the most important part is seeing the joy on the animal’s faces. They must love doing this kind of work. They must love meeting new people and seeing old friends over and over again. They must love getting out and working side by side with their owner.
So never forget the joy and delight that comes with bringing this bond to others.