We were only told one child was afraid of dogs.
One child had sudden, uncontrollable outbursts.
And we knew the third child, our friend Julian.
The four dogs chosen for this month's activity at the children's therapy center are all members of the Love Dog Adventures animal therapy team, a Pet Partner affiliate program. They were all perfect for the task.
Boise and Ginger are large, calm dogs that instill confidence to any child having a meltdown.
Petey is the perfect tiny dog for someone learning to be around dogs.
And Max is the perfect dog to show a child that dogs can play and move around and bark and still be safe.
Julian of course has met sixteen Love Dogs over the almost two years we have worked together and has made dramatic strides in his daily life. He can see dogs coming nearby and not flinch or run away. He can even observe if they are on a leash or not. He can tell a dog if it is too close. He can ask to pet someone's dog without being fearful. He can communicate with a dog and ask the dog to do something. He can watch Benny play with his toys and move quickly around the room. He can sit for an hour reading to his friend Benny and let the dog crawl into his lap REAL close.
He can even hug the dogs.
But Julian had never himself really PLAYED WITH A DOG.
Julian met Max and within minutes was watching Max catch his ball. Max is a Border Collie so he can jump pretty high to catch the ball. And since he had to remain on a leash it was a bit more challenging for him, but he never missed a catch. By the end of the hour Julian was asking Max to Sit, Down and Get Ready and throwing the ball to him.
What a wonderful day for dog and boy.
Then we met the little girl we were told was so afraid of dogs. She had been given Petey's trading card by her therapist so she knew who he was the minute she saw him. He was like an old friend to her. Right away she wanted to get close to him and touch him. I showed her and her mom how to greet a new dog safely and she put her hand out for Petey to sniff. She squealed with delight when he gave her a very soft kiss.
Soon the was sitting on the reading blanket and reading Petey's story to him. Her mom was surprised firstly that she was reading so well to the dog and that she let Petey crawl into her lap.
She then asked if she could hold Petey so we let her cradle him in her arms. So gentle.
She was still a little hesitant about the larger dogs but soon she was letting Ginger sit really close while she read to Petey. And after a short while she petted both Ginger and Boise!
Then we wanted to see how we could interact with the child having meltdowns. Twice he had to be removed from the room so he could calm down, screaming and crying all the way. We had met him before and he was able to be with the dogs but today the distractions were overwhelming for him.
When he did return to the group, he was calm enough to be placed near Ginger. He had never met Ginger before and something about this beautiful Yellow Lab drew him in. He breathed in a relaxed manner and did some hand-over-hand petting.
The remainder of the time was spent with all three children and four dogs engaged in some activity and thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Patience, love, trust and exquisitely trained dogs and knowledgeable handlers can accomplish even the most daunting goal.
For more information about the Love Dog therapy program in Las Vegas, visit www.lovedogadventures.com.