And he was right. Pet therapy is my absolute most favorite thing to do. But becoming a therapy dog was not easy. I had a whole lot to learn. Much more than a dog who is just a companion dog. I needed to learn how to behave myself under all sorts of conditions. I had to learn how to ride on an elevator without freaking out. I had to learn a ton of voice commands including, Sit, Down, Stand, Come, Stay, Roll over, Wait, Leave it, Heel, and Jump. I also had to learn the hand signals for Sit, Down, Stay, Stand and Come. Not easy, let me tell you, especially the hand signals.
It took me over a year to learn all this. Meanwhile, Chuck was taking me to all sorts of unusual places and introducing me to literally hundreds of people. My favorite place was sitting outside a Wal*Mart on a busy Saturday afternoon and meeting all kinds of people going into and out of the store. We did this a lot! Chuck did all this because he knew that, as a therapy dog, I would be expected to take all of this in stride without barking or becoming fearful.
Eventually Chuck decided I had enough training to try and take the therapy dog test where he and I would demonstrate what I had learned. It was really funny because he was very nervous about the test. But I thought it was a breeze because it was just what I had been learning/doing for the past year.
The test was divided into two parts. In the first part I demonstrated the obedience commands I had learned like Heel, Sit, Down, Come, etc. That part was a snap. The second part was harder as I had to demonstrate I knew what to do and how to act properly on a therapy visit. But we got through it and I passed the test. And, if I can brag a little, with flying colors. [Chuck says there's nothing worse than a dog with a swelled head :)]
After we had passed the test, Chuck and I began doing lots and lots of therapy visits. We visited elderly people in nursing homes, kids in a Pediatric Hospital, men and women in prison, kids in school, people with problems in a Mental Hospital, kids in an orphanage, men, women and kids in a Rehab Hospital, kids in a school for troubled kids and lots of other places, too.
As I mentioned above, I love everybody. But, truth be told, I like kids the best. And I like babies even better than kids. Fortunately, Chuck figured this out and we spend most of our time, as you can see from the list of places above, visiting with kids and babies.
Chuck has volunteer jobs in several public schools. He spends around three or four hours a day doing this. And, super cool(!), I get to go too!! Ya-hoo!! I get to spend hours every day with kids. I couldn't ask for more. (Except maybe to spend even more time :)
Because I have a natural love for all people, I really, really enjoy being a therapy dog. It makes me very happy. And it makes the people I visit with happy. And it makes Chuck happy. So the greatest thing about being a therapy dog is that everybody is happy and everybody wins.
I want to be a therapy dog every day for the rest of my life.
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