Pet Therapy: Bringing Love and Leaving Smiles

In many ways, my human mommy/blogging assistant and I are a team. We do our best teamwork when we’re bringing love and leaving smiles for the Visiting Pet Program. We started the process of becoming a pet therapy team about two years ago. Because most of our work would be done in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, our initial evaluation simulated what we would experience during our visits: a raucous round of bingo, walkers and wheelchairs navigating hallways, slightly-less-than-gentle petting, unexpected loud noises. My manners were perfect, I handled each step of the evaluation beautifully, and we moved on to our probationary visits. During three months of probationary visits, we were paired with human buddies (senior members of the Visiting Pet Program) who watched as we met with the residents at several different nursing homes. And then in December 2015, my human mommy and I became a full-fledged pet therapy team for the Visiting Pet Program.

Mommy and I do our regular monthly visits at a place called Colonial Oaks Living Center. We spend about an hour going from room to room to see our friends. They love telling us about all the dogs they’ve had through the years. I love being petted and told how pretty and sweet I am. It can be kind of exhausting, so sometimes I lie down and take a quick nap. No one seems to mind. In fact, I think my little naps are somehow comforting to my friends.

We also do special visits. Mommy and I have been to a summer camp at the Lighthouse for the Blind. I was a big hit there. All the campers said I was super soft. A couple of months ago we visited Camp Tiger, a free camp for children who are physically and/or mentally challenged organized by the LSU Health Sciences Center and staffed by medical school students. Last fall, we attended the blessing of the animals at Christ Church Cathedral.

Tallulah and my human daddy joined us at that visit . . . unofficially, of course. The humans thought Tallulah could use a little blessing. Turns out an exorcism might have been more appropriate at that point in her life. My little sister has calmed down a lot since then, and one day I think she’ll make an excellent therapy dog . . . but not yet.

Back to the real team. Our favorite visits are the ones that we do with university students before they take big tests. We’ve helped students at Loyola University relax before finals and calmed the nerves of physical therapy students in the LSU School of Allied Health Professions. Most of our university visits have been with the students at Tulane University School of Medicine.

They have two really important tests each year. There’s a lot of pressure, and they can get pretty stressed out. You should have seen this group when they walked into the room where we were meeting: eyes focused on the ground, shoulders hunched, fists clenched. Within five minutes we were all on the ground. They were petting and hugging me, laughing, sharing photos of their dogs back home, and snapping selfies with yours truly. It felt good to bring a little love their way, and I definitely left some super big smiles. Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you have a great time. And I hope you remember to bring love and leave smiles. Cheers!

 

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