Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Allie the therapist

Some people have suggested to me that Allie would make a wonderful therapy dog. And I see their point. Allie adores any and all human beings. Sometimes, though, she adores them just a little too much.

A case in point is our mail carrier: if Allie sees a Postal Service truck and/or the mail carrier making his deliveries, her overriding goal becomes getting to that mail carrier, even if she has to drag me halfway down the street to reach him. I can just see her wanting to reach a patient in a hospital or nursing home and knocking over another patient's walker in order to arrive at her destination. Note, too, that Allie already has earned her Canine Good Citizen certification, which contains 10 of the 11 elements needed to receive certification with Therapy Dogs International. That 11th element, saying hello without going bonkers, would be tough for her.

For that reason, I don't see formal therapy work in Allie's future. That's not to say, however, that she doesn't serve a therapeutic role for some people. Two of those people will have a chance to benefit from her talents over the next couple of weeks.

One of those people is my daughter. She's a 21-year-old third-year college student, consistently on the dean's list, happy and self-sufficient. That said, she's missed Allie more since she's been in college than I think she expected, and got a chance to explain why when she was interviewed for this article. So tomorrow evening, when Julie comes home for spring break, it's a safe bet to assume that the first family member she'll look for will be Allie, and that Allie will be wagging her tail so hard that the entire back half of her body will be in motion. Then, for the next few days, Julie and Allie will be best buds--until Julie hauls out her suitcase to pack for the trip back to school, and Allie performs her usual you're-leaving-me-again body wilt.

The other person is my mom. She loves dogs, but hasn't had one for more than seven years; after that dog (an unforgettable Dachshund named Mimi) passed away, she and my Dad decided that they could no longer handle taking care of a dog. My dad had just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and they both worried that a dog would be lost in the shuffle of caring for my dad as his illness progressed. My father succumbed to complications of Parkinson's a year and a half ago -- but at this point in her life, my 82-year-old mom is unwilling to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog.

That's where Allie comes in. My mom will be visiting here for nine days or so starting just after Julie leaves -- and with Allie here, Mom will get her dog fix. Allie will pay plenty of attention to her: cuddling, paw nudging, nose bopping and, if all else fails, amping up her usual level of doggie antics. Mom will get to re-live all the joys of living with dogs, but not have to deal with any of the hassles, such as taking the dog out on a rainy day for a potty break. I guess having a grand-dog is like having grandchildren: you can enjoy their company, but when it comes time for nitty-gritty care, you can hand the dog or child back to the parents.

And that's just fine with me. Allie probably won't ever be a certified therapy dog, but she provides the best kind of canine therapy to two people who are among those I love best. I can live with that.


Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

I wish Lilly could do some formal therapy work, but I'll take the little informal things she can do for others as well. It's a gift. A small one, but still a gift.

Linda Rehkopf said...

My dogs have served completely different clientele during their therapy dog service, Susan. Sam was at his best with senior citizens; he had a calm, relaxed temperament. Gracie does better with youngsters, especially those kids at the day camp for developmentally challenged children, who take hold of her lead and walk her around the room. I'm sure Allie's versatile talents are not going to be lost on your daughter and your mom, and sometimes (or most times) the one-on-one visits are so much more important.

Susan said...

One thing that Allie has taught me is that any gift, no matter how small it seems, should be appreciated. And Allie has given me many -- just not the ones I expected!

KathyF said...

Bailey flunked her test at age 1--as we knew she would, but I wanted to see what was involved in the test, so they agreed to let me come see what it was about. But, I started taking her in to my mom's nursing home (which was allowed, since I was family), and it turned out that she was a natural! She calmed down with older people, and always seemed to have an affinity for them. I regret now I didn't take her to nursing homes after we moved away, but there was so much red tape involved here (I'd need a police background check, for starters).

Anyway, I always thought it was amazing how she could sense those who needed her, and those who didn't care a thing about her. And my daughter--same age as yours--felt the same way, just as I missed mine when I went away to school!

Deb E said...

I think that ALL dogs are therapists - some just for their own people or person, some for anybody & some for other animals. It is just a matter of finding what works for each individual.
Bubba my Kuvasz adored kindergarten & preschool kids, Beep my Terv loved teenagers - with or without disabilities & Hokey my current Terv loves everyone.
Deb E

Susan said...

Well said, Deb!

Susan said...

And Kathy, you're absolutely right. When I was recovering from a serious injury and emergency surgery last year, Allie seemed to realize that I was not myself, and she refused to leave my side until I had pretty much fully recovered. It's amazing how perceptive our canine companions can be.