Abby has a Happy Tail not because of being a rescued animal but because she preforms her job as a Therapy Dog wagging her tail joyfully through the hallways of the places she visits.
Abby’s story began when her Dad-to-be declared at a family gathering that he thought it was time to have a dog join our family, thus ending a nearly two year long period of being without one. Her Mom-to-be was caught totally by surprise at this announcement. After several months of contemplation the decision was made to get a Border Terrier puppy again, but this time a girl.
After much searching a breeder with puppies on the way was located. Abby’s mom, grandmother and aunt were all friendly, well mannered dogs. We asked that consideration be given to choosing a puppy for us that had a non-dominant but confident personality with the hopes of having Abby be a therapy dog.
Abby was born on the first day of summer 2010 and came to live with us in that fall.
After contacting Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs for suggestions our goal became to expose Abby to as many different situations, sights, smells and sounds as possible so she would be confident and comfortable with different noises, environments and people.
While inside spent our time mostly confined to the kitchen working on potty training and good house manners.
In the yard we attached her leash to a belt so we could stay together while doing jobs including gardening, raking, walking with the wheel barrow, and taking the trash out.
We began our formal training with Puppy Kindergarden where she met a fellow Border Terrier. His Mom was an experienced therapy dog handler. She suggested I teach Abby to enjoy wearing costumes as a puppy because the residents of many facilities enjoy seeing the dogs dressed for different holidays. We joined them on adventures to pet stores, Tractor Supply Store, downtown Denville and hikes around their neighborhood.
We joined a Mom and Baby hiking group where Abby was introduced to people of a variety of ages and a few other dogs.
Abby was a regular visitor to our small local library with the hope of having her be a reading dog.
Abby returned to formal training in early 2012. We took Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen classes where we learned to work with good manners around other dogs and people.We practiced being near wheelchairs, crutches, walkers, loud noises, riding with others in elevators and passing by treats on the floor. After practicing our lessons at home and completing the courses Abby passed the Canine Good Citizen and Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dog test.
Our identification tags and leash arrived in May 2012 and we were ready to begin our new adventures. We made contact with the group captain of nearby nursing homes and with some more advice and practice we are happy to be part of therapy groups at two nursing homes. We visit each home once a month. We usually have 3-5 dogs and their handlers at each visit. We see some people in their rooms and visit others in group rooms. Most of the people are so pleased to see the dogs. Many of them are former dog owners and tell us how much they miss their dogs. Some people are memory impaired and don’t communicate well but you can see the joy on their face when they are petting Abby. Abby wears her costumes when she works and gets many compliments.
Abby has also begun her career as a Reading Dog. She visits the library and sits with children who have signed up while they read to her. When they have finished reading they get to write a page in Abby’s Reading Log.
Having a job makes Abby happy. If I ask her if she wants to go be a Therapy Dog she gets very excited and wags her Happy Tail.
About the Author: Jeannette lives in New Jersey with her husband and Border Terrier. She enjoys nature, all manner of handy craft and photographing the bears in her backyard.
Happy Tails! You've got them, I want to share them! E-mail Marjorie at seekingsheltercomic at gmail dot com to see yours posted to the blog.