A.J. is a Therapy Dog!

September 26, 2014

This has been a pretty exciting week for A.J. Well, probably more for me, A.J. just kind of goes with whatever is going on.

Monday we continued our therapy dog training and had our first observation at an extended care facility. There were four teams being evaluated by two observers. One  of the observers was Tom, who had done our testing. The timing wasn’t very good (again), we had to meet at 6:00 PM, which meant leaving the house at 5:15. That meant I had to walk A.J. before he had an early dinner. But he still thinks 6:30 or 7:00 is his walk time, and he doesn’t really like it when that changes.

We arrived at the facility about 15 minutes early. There is a big grassy area out front so I took A.J. over to go to the bathroom. He was very excited and distracted, and there were trees across the street that he wanted to go check out. But I sort of got him under control and we went in to meet everyone in the lobby.

We first went into a room where we could all introduce ourselves and talk about what we were going to do. Two of the dogs there were the same small dogs that were at our test. The other dog was a one-year-old golden retriever. He was beautiful, but he and A.J. were pretty interested in each other. I’m sure all they wanted to do was run off and play together.

But A.J. did well and wound up lying down while we were talking. Then it was time to go visit. We visited people in beds and in wheelchairs. A.J. did pretty well, but he didn’t know what was going on and didn’t seem to want to be there. He tolerated people petting him, but he wasn’t that interested. In one room that we walked into the bed was very low to the ground and A.J. just jumped right up, I had to quickly pull him back down. We didn’t get marked down because I caught him quickly.

Overall he was distracted and confused, but when we stopped in the halls he stood nicely beside me and he did let everyone pet him for short periods of time. He pulled at the leash trying to lead the way, I struggled to make it appear he was walking with a loose leash. But when we were done he had once again impressed the observers and passed his evaluation.

As for me, I was actually kind of like A.J. We’d stop, I’d say hi to the people, introduce them to A.J., then…that was about it. I had no idea what to say. I think I went into this hoping they’d just pet my dog and I could stand back and watch, but I think I knew it didn’t really work that way. I need to talk to people, and I have no idea what to say to any of them. It was almost as awkward for me as it was for A.J. I’m sure we’ll both get better at this with time.

The next evaluation was scheduled for Thursday. We were meeting at a different place for this evaluation, another long-term care facility. This time we were back to the original three teams. We arrived early again and I gave A.J. a few pops to inform him he had to stop pulling on the leash. It did some good in the beginning, but by the end of the visit he was pulling horribly. But again when I stopped he stopped with me and stood patiently. A couple of times he nudged my hand, letting me know he didn’t want to stand there anymore, but he was a good boy.

We were all together when the observer, Brad, arrived. He headed straight for A.J., and they were both as happy as can be to see each other. It turns out we were in immediately because Brad also has a springer (he showed me a picture later, very pretty dog). So this visit went really well. A.J. was much more receptive to being petted in the beginning. He did get tired of it fairly quickly, but he stuck with it and did a great job. He walked right up to people in wheelchairs and in a couple of cases even leaned up against the chairs while he was petted. He offered his paw to one gentleman, which really made everyone happy. We went into one room where a woman was in a bed that was up too high for her to reach A.J. So Brad pulled up a chair and asked if A.J. would jump onto it. I told him A.J. would jump onto anything, which he proceeded to prove by jumping up onto the chair and straight onto the bed. I caught him before he really got on the bed because I was ready for that. Once he figured out he had to stay on the chair he reached his nose forward toward the woman and she was able to pet him. He was really pretty entertaining. The nurse came in with the woman’s medicine and A.J. really wanted to share, which made everyone laugh.

I did about the same. “This is A.J. He’s two years old, so still a puppy. He’s a little crazy, he gets very excited, he’s new at this….” The end. Time to move on?

When we were done, Brad filled out all the paperwork and passed us all. It was really a fun visit, and A.J. was (mostly) great.

Now I have to send in all the paperwork, and as soon as we get our certificate we can go wherever we want that accepts therapy dogs. I have no idea where that will be, but after going through all this we’ll definitely have to find something. And I think A.J. will get better at it as he does it more. It will also be helpful if we go during the day rather than during his walk time.

He’s such a great dog!