Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Therapy Dog

Magnolia the therapy dog had her first full day of work as a therapy dog. I had hoped to slowly start introducing her to work in January however due to some unexpected circumstances, she joined me for the day yesterday.

Maggie did extraordinarily well. She greeted clients at the door and said hello to them as they settled onto the couch or chair. She joined some up on the couch and settled into their laps. At other times, she curled up in her bed next to my chair and silently slept. Not bad for a 14 week old puppy.

Traditionally, a therapy dog is an animal that is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and even stressful situations like disaster areas. Any breed of dog has the potential of being a therapy animal. The temperament of the animal is what is important. Dogs working as therapy dogs need to be friendly and patient. They need to possess a sense of confidence and ease in all situations. Most importantly of all, they need to be gentle and enjoy interacting with humans--whether that be the gentle pet of someone in a nursing home or the clumsy roughhousing of a child in school.

There are several different organizations that sponsor certification of therapy dogs. Therapy Dog International is a group founded in New Jersey. Therapy Dogs Inc. is another similar organization based in Wyoming. The organization that I am choosing to work with is the Delta Society and their New England affiliate, New England Pet Partners Inc.

I've elected to work with Maggie toward certification with the Delta Society because I like that they differentiate between Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy. On their website, they write that "Animal-assisted activities are basically the casual "meet and greet" activities tat involve pets visiting people. The same activity can be repeated with many people, unlike a therapy program that is tailored to a particular person or medical condition." Animal Assisted Therapy is defined as "a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession."

While Maggie will certainly be engaged in Animal Assisted Activities in my office from time to time, I am also hoping she will be amenable, when needed, to becoming a more integral part of the therapy process and engage in activities that are more akin to Animal Assisted Therapy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This I Believe

I've been listening to a podcast for the last several months that has captured my attention. This I Believe describes itself as "an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays describing the core values that guide their daily lives." I have found most of them to be amazing and inspiring.

I've been reflecting upon one essay in particular for the last couple of weeks. Ann Heywood was a military wife and held more than 30 different jobs before she started her own business helping other people find the right job. Some consider her to be the precursor to the "follow your bliss" movement.

Her essay offered two things that stood out. Heywood wrote "I believe that every human being has a talent--something that he [or she] can do better than anyone else. And I believe that the distinction between so-called "create" talents and ordinary run-of-the-mill talents is an unnecessary and man-made distinction." She also wrote "I also believe that in the process of searching, no experience is ever wasted, unless we allow ourselves to run out of hope."

What an important lesson this essay offers in self-discovery and understanding. Each of us offers the world a gift that no one else can offer. Each person is valuable. None of our experiences are wasted--even the painful ones. They all drive us to a place that makes us uniquely ourselves, uniquely gifted, and uniquely valuable.

Is there a more powerful act that any one person can take other than transforming a difficult or traumatic experience into something that propels oneself toward finding one's unique gifts?