Pupdate: Six Months of Animal Assisted Therapy

Dude’s First Semester Report Card

Hospitality : Outstanding
Rapport with Clients: Improving
Attention : Needs Improvement

Collaboration: Needs Improvement

Observations: Clients have been pleased to notice that Dude recognizes them from week to week. He comes out of his crate, wagging his tail, and nuzzling them on the couch. Less verbal clients have been encouraged to speak more freely as they pet Dude’s very soft fur while he lays still on the floor with them. Dude has grounded stressed clients of all ages by lying ON their feet when they are clearly in distress. His cheerful personality and mischievous nature can provide a welcome distraction and lighten the mood at just the right time. However, Dude has not developed a sense of timing in therapy. When we added Mondays to his work week, he became more restless, and more distracting (not in a good way).

Next Steps: I decided to write this six month report card following a particularly difficult week with Dude. I wanted to acknowledge his growth as a “co-therapist” but also highlight for myself where he could use more training. Last Wednesday I called to consult with Sydney Head. Sydney is the director of Full Circle Obedience in Oklahoma City. Dude graduated from all of her classes and received his Canine Good Citizens Certificate from Full Circle in 2017 before starting his therapy dog work at the office. Sydney was reassuring and helpful. She suggested that I provide Dude with some designated chew sticks to keep him occupied and curb his restless wandering during session. This week Dude will starts at home and in office training with me on the command “drop it” to teach him to let go of things that don’t belong to him like office toys, kleenex, and his leash.

For now, we will be returning to his original Wednesday work day until his attention and collaboration get to Satisfactory or Outstanding! He has come a long way from his early days of “internship” at work, but I know he can do better with increased support and lots of practice.

A life observation: we can ALL do better with increased support and lots of practice.

Sometimes we hit a snag (or a brick wall) in our learning. Many factors can contribute to complacency, or behavioral regression. In Dude’s case, the increase in work hours and weather related decrease in outdoor exercise were the context for a less than stellar report card. As his puppy parent, I know I need to be more patient with his development. Compassion, awareness and practice can bring us back to feeling and doing better.

This blog post seemed like my first with the new “block system” of WordPress. I’m definitely Needing Improvement in my learning for the new features. My plan is to be self-compassionate while increasing my training with lots of practice before next month’s blog!