We have heard this term more and more lately-"My dog is a therapy dog." " My dog is a hearing dog." " My dog is a dog for people with Autism." Many more foundations are popping up to train and place dogs in homes of people in need. Trust me, I think that is FANTASTIC! To have a dog be with you when you have special needs is a gift. To have a dog calm your autistic worries or help you know when someone is at the door,is great... But is that all it means to be a "therapy dog"?
I challenge you and will say,"No." These "therapy dogs" existed way before training, foundations and placement. The word "dog" in the dictionary should say" therapeutic and calming animal" in its definition. I can't tell you how many times I have come home from a long, awful, hard day and cuddled Dexter and instantly felt at peace. When our 12 year old friend was dying of cancer, Dexter came in handy for my daughter and me when we were unbelievably sad.. we could cry into his fur for as long as we needed. He just was there. He never walked away-like our cats do-or asked 1 million questions. He never gives answers or tries to "fix" our problems. He just lets us cuddle/rest/be/heal.
I know that when I bring Dexter to my mom's assisted living building, all the residents get instantly happier. Their crabby or sad or unexcited faces turn suddenly to smiles. They ask questions of each other,share memories and come out of their shells. It is amazing to see how wonderful animals are for people's souls. They are instinctively "therapeutic".
How has a dog or animal been therapeutic to you??
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.