Recently my mom asked me if I would like to try something a little different from what we normally do. It would involve interacting with people. And sharing my love. Because she was sure we both would find it enjoyable.
Of course, I agreed. My first thoughts were giving kisses and getting belly rubs Since that is my favorite way to interact with people. I love giving kisses and belly rubs are the best. And I have plenty of love to share! So I was sure it sounded like a great idea.
Our local hospital has a therapy dog visitation program. My mom and dad were the ones who were instrumental in starting the program nearly 29 years ago.
This was not too long before my mom became disabled. Her symptoms of MS had just begun. Although she had no idea what lay ahead. Or how quickly things were about to change.
My brother, Eric, with Tory!
My mom had a Golden Retriever, Tory, who was her therapy dog. And my dad had a German Shepherd, Bronson. They loved visiting. And seeing so many smiles from patients and staff.
My mom has been a service dog user for nearly 27 years. And has dome therapy dog visits with each of her service dogs. Although not all service dogs can seamlessly work both jobs.
Waiting for more visitors to come to visit me!
But she wasn’t planning on doing any therapy dog visits with me. With her wheelchair, it can be challenging to get into some of the patient rooms. Since the rooms can be small. And there are often chairs and tables in the way, which my mom can’t move.
Also, I am much friendlier than her previous service dogs. So she thought I might have a harder time separating my job as a service dog, where all my focus is on my mom. And a therapy dog, where I can interact with people.
But there was a unique opportunity that came up where she thought I might do well. The hospital wanted to offer some therapy dog visits to their staff.
This would take place in a large room where nurses, doctors, and support staff could come and go to visit with me for a set amount of time. Which seemed like a perfect setup. And I have to say that it is.
I love belly rubs!
My mom didn’t have to worry about the challenges of navigating tight spaces with her wheelchair. And the setting would be different enough that she thought visiting with people wouldn’t carry over to my regular service dog work.
I’m not sure why she was concerned. I know my job as a service dog well. And know the importance of staying focused on my mom. And not visit with people we encounter. Even though it is sometimes tempting!
So over the past couple of weeks, we have gone to the hospital twice to visit with staff. Originally it was planned that we would only go to one area of the hospital. But when word got out about me, the staff in another area of the hospital wanted me to come to visit them, too.
Bringing comfort and love!
I love visiting with the staff! I wag my tail when people come into the room. And snuggle in close for some extra love. I think the best part might be giving kisses and rolling on my back to get belly rubs. Although I did love every type of interaction.
Some people ask questions about me. Things like my age and what I do to help my mom. Others just want to quietly sit with me and stroke my soft fur. And tell me how much better I make them feel.
I even got to hear some stories about their dogs and cats. Which was interesting. And good to know they had pets of their own.
Some told me that I was the best part of their day. And how much better their day will be since visiting with me. A few times I was told that seeing me and petting me was just what they needed. And it was going to improve their day. Because they had been able to interact with me.
Resting! Because visiting can be hard work.
I’m not sure who had the best time. Was it me, my mom, or the staff who visited with me? I think in our ways, each of us benefited from the love that was shared.
Everyone is looking forward to my visits becoming a regularly scheduled event. It touched my mom deeply that in some small way we could make a difference to those who needed some furry love from me. Because she knows healthcare can be stressful at times.
Waiting for my dad to come to pick us up!
In closing, I want to share the differences between a therapy dog and a service dog. Because educating people is part of my passion for doing the blog. And it is important to know how the two differ.
A service dog is individually trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability. They are permitted in public places with their partner.
A therapy dog is a well-trained pet that provides comfort and affection to a variety of people. They visit with their volunteer handler in settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. They are not permitted in public places unless invited.
My job as a service dog is to work for just my mom. And give her greater independence through the tasks I have been trained to do. Which you all know is my very favorite thing to do.
In my very limited role as a therapy dog, I can share my affection and love with a variety of people. Which seems like a perfect part-time job for me! Because you know I have lots of love to share!