“Not really. I think everything started when Linda took me to the dog doctor to make sure I was okay and then signed me up for obedience training. I got really nervous because I didn’t know what that meant. Turned out, she did this to help me be a good dog.”
“I assume that’s where it got tough. I mean, look at you. You’re like the dog version of Adonis. Was there a lot of yelling and screaming to scare you into submission?”
“Turns out, the trainers were very gentle but demanding. We learned all sorts of commands. I was a fast learner and actually finished the Beginners, Advanced Beginners, Novice, and Advanced Novice training programs with flying colors. One of the hardest things to do was pass the test for my Good Citizen Certificate. I practiced and practiced to take a test called a Pet Therapy Certificate given by a group of amazingly special people from the Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association.”
“You mean to tell me that you went through all of that training so you could sit on a couch in some posh office and whine about how tough your life is? That kind of therapy?” You don’t ever want to see a German Shepherd roll his eyes.
“No, I guess I wasn’t very clear. Linda decided to help me give back for all of the kindness that was shown to me when I was young. She was helping me to train to be a Therapy Dog."
“Hey, I know, watchadoin’ later? I’ve got a fresh Frisbee if you want to…oh, sorry. I can’t concentrate like you. So when you were in these classes, what did you do?”
The First Therapy Dog
I recognized Jake as soon as he strolled up. A healthy German Shepherd with the build of one of those Seal Team Six guys. He looked straight ahead, as if that cute little Poodle over there didn’t even exist. Jake’s attention was totally focused on the task at hand. I bet I could toss a T-bone steak in front of him and he’d walk right past. I was impressed. I’m sure he went through an amazing amount of training to do that. Me, heck no…steak gone.
After our typical dog-meet-dog greeting, we picked out a shady spot under a beautiful Maple tree to chat. Jake’s person, Linda, laid out a blanket in the sun to relax on while we talked. I was curious. Where did a dog like him come from?
“Hey, Jake, for starters, were you raised at one of those fancy breeding joints where you get all of that fancy pants foods and stuff? You look so…well, great.”
He just looked at me and sort of chuckled.
“Naw, far from it. I only remember back to when I was about six months old. I was hiding near an elementary school out in Vandalia, Ohio, which I think is about a million miles from here. My person’s friend, Nancy, saw me hiding and was very quiet and gentle. She brought me breakfast and dinner each day for a long time. It was very cold out so she brought me a small dog house with hay in it to help keep me warm. Linda, my person, would come and give me treats and then finally, she took me to her house where I’ve been living. She’s very kind.”
“Wow. I shouldn’t have assumed so much. You seem so refined. So, you actually don’t know if you any brothers or sisters?”
“I have no idea.”
"So, now you just hang around the house and chase sunny spots on the carpet?”
The last time I was sent out on an assignment like this was, well, I don’t really know. We dogs don’t do time so good. But, this is BIG! I’m going to interview a Therapy Dog. These guys are like Mr. Rogers, grilled cheese and tomato soup on a rainy day, all mixed together. Like Ironman and Julie Andrews all rolled into one. Like, you get the picture…
I made contact with Jake’s people and we agreed to meet at the local watering bowl. A place that is usually teeming with wild Frisbee dogs and some uh, err, pretty girl dogs. Just the place for a conversation with no distractions…eh, not too many distractions anyway. I got there early to scope the place out. Just as I’d figured. Standard dog park. This should be an easy one.
By Boone, the Intrepid Pup Reporter for "The BooneDoggies"
December 6, 2013
An Interview with Jake, a Therapy Dog
"The classes were very long and I was very tired after each one. The instructors taught us how to be good therapy dogs. Sometimes we sat on the floor with our handlers for a long time, just learning to sit and be calm. In one exercise we had to walk all the way down a long hallway where they had put yummy treats all over floor. We couldn't even sniff at them. I learned later that if I was in a hospital and there was a pill or something spilled on the floor, I could get hurt badly if I touched it."
"So that's how you are able to avoid all these distractions. I'm impressed. Now that you are a Therapy Dog, do you lead blind people down the road and help them cross the street? That sort of thing?"
"No, I'm not that kind of dog. Alot of those dogs specialize in helping physically disabled people. They lead them, or push them. Sometimes they get things for them. I hear there is even dogs that will help make phone calls and ones that can sniff out different diseases. What I do is specialized in a different way. The folks I help are usually in need of comfort. We visit people in retirement homes, children's hospitals, veteran's hospitals."
"Whoa, squirrel! Did you see that? What do you say we get after him?!"
" I saw him. Let's just finish up here . . . "
Wow. What an attention span!
"Do the people just feel better because you just kind of casually wander in and look good and all?"
"Well, it seems that when I show up they cheer up a lot. I let them pet me and talk to me and sometimes they just bury their face in my fur and cry, never saying anything. I'm just there to be kind and do some good. Going to schools and libraries is really fun because the kids just love to pet me and snuggle me. Every once in a while, I will show up to a new place and people get scared. As you may have noticed, I'm kind of big. German Shepherds don't have the best reputation of being sweet and gentle. Sometimes I'll get bored but my job is to just be there. I usually just lie down and wait. They always come around."
"Can any dog be a Therapy Dog?"
Therapy Dog Facts
To date there are 565 US Therapy Dog Organizations. To find one in your state, visit www.therapydogorganizations.net/index.html
“I think so. They have to be able to complete the training though. I hear there are Therapy horses, rats, small ponies, even (cringe) Therapy cats. I’ve heard of Therapy gold fish but I’m not sure how they get trained. Lizards and ferrets aren’t allowed though…they’ve got attitude issues.”
By this time I’m feeling a bit intimidated. This guy is Captain America and Wonder Woman all squished together. After composing myself, I hit with the hardball questions.
“With all of this regimented lifestyle, I suppose treats are out, eh?”
“Ha, no way! Linda gives me treats all of the time. She’s careful, I have my image to maintain but hotdogs and training treats are my faves.”
I thanked Jake and watched as he and his person, Linda walked off. They stopped and some kids ran up and gave him some major snuggles. It left me thinking about all of the work he went through to give back such goodness and comfort.
That’s one Good Dog!
Print this edition of The Daily Chew!
Who is Boone?
Boone is the hard hitting, gritty reporter for The Daily Chew, the online periodical spreading news of “Good Dogs Doing Good Things”. Boone interviews dogs in all fields of service, rescue and celebrity, to find out what it takes to be a “Good Dog”. As a one year old seasoned longhair dachshund, he has a unique perspective on the world.
Requirements and Rules of Therapy Dog Organizations
Therapy dog organizations that offer registration each have their own requirements and rules you must follow in order to be a member and to be protected by their insurance policy. To get an idea what an evaluation might be like, here is a good place to start: the AKC's Canine Good Citizen ® (CGC) Program Most therapy dog evaluations are similar to or are an extension of the CGC test.