Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Therapy Dog

8:30am: Ready for more coffee
9:30am: Ready for my morning walk
9:35am: In the garage by the scary door that slammed on my foot once.
9:36am: Hurry up and open the door.
9:40am Surveying for something good to eat
9:41am: I'm told these aren't food.
9:45am:  spy with my little eye...
9:46am: ...a mid-morning snack?
9:55am: Magnolia Wigglesworth reporting for duty.
10:00am Time for a nap.
12:00pm Anyone want to play?
1:00pm: Time for another nap.
2:00pm: Demonstrating unconditional positive regard.
3:10pm: Something smells good.
3:11pm: Yes, that's it. I see it.
3:12pm: Squirrel!
3:30pm: Pausing to inspect Harvard Yard.
3:33pm: Squirrel!
4:00pm: Magnolia Wigglesworth reporting for duty.
5:15pm: An unexpected walk along the Charles.
5:20pm Play things!
6:00pm: Back to work.
9:00pm: Too tired to walk down the steps. Carry me please.
9:30: Ready to be transported home to an undisclosed location.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Man's Best Friend in Any Language

I came across the following clip of two dogs who survived the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Some view the clip and see a dog who won't leave another injured dog. That is likely only half the story. It's likely that both dogs are are also staying close to their homes in an attempt to find and protect their missing humans.

Confusing, scary, and devastating for all involved.

It serves as a good reminder that each and every family needs a disaster plan--and that disaster plan needs to take into account any animals that you are responsible for. The Federal Emergency Management agency as a webpage detailing some steps you can consider taking to make a plan for your animals.

The two dogs in this video, by the way, were rescued.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fan Mail

Recently I received some fan mail. A regular reader of this blog sent me some YouTube clips of Blue Heelers/Australian Cattle Dogs in action. In watching these clips, a lot of my natural behaviors make sense. The human is already hard at work designing some new activities for me to capitalizes on what my breed was designed to do (of course, my mother, the laid back Basset Hound, also taught me the finer points of napping).

It's worth paying close attention to the type of dog you have and what they naturally want to do. It will help enrich both of your lives.


Yesterday afternoon I had a bit of free time between my therapy dog duties. The human and I bundled up and headed out into Harvard Square for a walk. As is frequently the case during the work week, the human let me lead. I spend long hours doing things that he asks of me in the office. In return for my hard work, I get to pick the direction, pace, and flavor of our walks.

Yesterday I brought the human into Harvard Yard. Despite the cold temperature, it was perfect squirrel hunting weather. The snow had mostly melted exposing a treasure trove of acorns. The muddy squares of grass on campus were too enticing to the squirrels: despite the cold they were out scurrying around having an afternoon meal.

I coaxed the human into a run and we were charging back and forth across the lawns. We were hot in pursuit of a squirrel--I followed him right up onto the steps of Memorial Chapel. This of course created a scene. Dog running, human following, and squirrel scrambling. A little mop of a terrier walked by and got super excited. I forgot about my quarry and visited with the dog.

Noticing we were surrounded by police, the human remembered that there was a vigil going on inside of the chapel. He asked me to have some decorum. After a bit of barking, I settled down and complied with his request.

A woman walked by and then turned around and walked right up to me. I wagged my tail with all my might as she asked the human if she could pet me. He said yes--and with that I was up off my hind end and onto my toes as I stretched toward the woman who so obviously wanted to say hello. We exchanged a lot of kisses, wiggles, and pets. It was great.

"What kind of dog are you?" the woman said.

"She is an Australian Blue Heeler/Basset Hound mix," said my human.

"Is she a rescue dog?"

"Yes," said my human. "She was dropped off at a shelter when she and her siblings were just a day old by a man who wasn't willing or able to care for them. Her mother had heart worm and they were all likely to be put down. An organization called Peace and Paws heard about their plight and saved the whole family. They moved to New Hampshire, were nursed back to health, and adopted."

"She must have been well cared for--even when she was one day old. So many rescue dogs can be scared. This one isn't scared at all."

My human smiled. I was well cared for by the rescue organization. I also was (and still am!) a very timid dog. The human smiled because he knew how hard we've worked together so that most of my interactions go like this.

My human thanked the woman for stopping to pet me.

"No, thank you" she said. "This made my day."

The police on the steps of the chapel were smiling too, talking about the wiggling squirrel-chasing dog who was licking everyone who wanted a canine kiss.

It was a fitting day to do this. Back when I was just a few months old I stumbled through Harvard Yard on a warm autumn afternoon. A man with a dark wooden cane came walking by. It was perfect because I was just starting to be exposed and socialized to all sorts of different situations that caused me distress. I was scared of the cane and more than a little scared of the man.

My human picked me up and offered me some reassuring words. The man with the dark wooden cane kept coming a little closer. I tried to burrow into my human so I could hide.

The man, as many have since done, asked about me.

"I'm a psychologist," my human said. "This little one is training to be a therapy dog that joins me in my office." There was a few moments of conversation about my journey from Kentucky to New Hampshire and now Massachusetts.

The man asked first if he might try to pet me. My human nodded and his hand gently extended toward me. I wagged just the tip of my tail as he scratched a bit behind my ear.

"Thanks for stopping by and saying hello," my human said.

"No, thank you," the man with the cane spoke. "I hope you two have a wonderful life together. We need people who care and show compassion."

Yesterday, inside the doors of Memorial Chapel, Rev. Peter Gomes body was inside a casket. The Harvard Community had gathered all day to hold a vigil honoring his life.

What I had not known that summer day was the man who stopped and scratched my ear was the Reverend.

Thank you, Peter.