This year in June, Animal Angels will be completing 9 years of providing love and comfort to people in need through us animals. I am proud to be a part of this team, and honored to be a four footed therapist. Our team has many more of these four footed therapists like me. I would like you to meet them. So now on I will also be posting 'barks' (human equivalent to blog) by my fellow therapy dogs about their experiences. This 'bark' is by Therapy dog Rex, a handsome Golden Retriever from our team in Pune. Now seven years old, he started working as a therapy dog when he was two and half. He is simply awesome and has touched the lives of many special children giving them a reason to smile.
"I remember the day about four years ago that Minal came home and watched me play, walk and listen to my family. She visited a couple of times and finally said I was the one! Ok, I figured I had cracked some test. But what? My canine senses were on high alert.
They took me to her class. Nice place I thought – lots of green and so many children! From the Golden Retriever family, I am naturally inclined to be able to understand and appreciate special needs. So I realized when I saw the children that I was there for a reason. I was there to make them feel better.
Not a doctor or a psychologist, I had to just let them be themselves around me. Leave them to do everything they want to do to me. Often I feel like saying ouch, don’t pull my hair and your head on my stomach is kinda heavy. But I don’t because this is where they gain in confidence. Most kids look at me and just keep looking with wonder. Methinks it is because I am so big and still so gentle.
As a therapy dog, I was taught not to jump and run through special children. Differently abled, some can’t walk properly, some can’t talk properly, autistic children, spastic children, I can work with all. Patience which I refuse to exhibit at home comes naturally to me here. So if I have to wait for the child to let the treat out of his hands I wait quietly, not barking not jumping and taking it out of his hands. When somebody wants to hold my leash and take me for a walk, I walk at their pace, if I have to lie down on the grass with others, I like that too. My work profile is impressive. I have been working at a center called Bal Kalyan Sanstha in Pune since 2007, which is a recreation center for the disabled. Its where children get to focus on things other than their disabilities. I have also worked at Orchid school, where normal and special children are taught together. Another center I used to visit was Sindhu vidhya Bhavan where I learned to work with children on crutches and wheelchairs. I really helped me grow and understand people more.
I remember an autistic child that i worked with. On the first day that he came, he was jumping all over, running from wall to wall, making wired sounds and not paying attention to anyone. Over a period of time I had understood that these children find it difficult to relate to anything, but find it easy to connect with us dogs. So I gave him time. He would hesitate to come near me, but would look at me from the corner of his eye. Slowly he started taking interest in me, would come and touch me, give me an occasional treat. But he was still not able to focus and would run around a lot. I noticed that if he was not paying attention to the therapist and I went and nudged him or if he just touched my fur, he would get back his focus and be much more attentive. After many months of working with him, he slowly started calling me out, trying to make friends with me, learning to write on my fur, sleeping on me relaxed him. At time he would just hug me and sit. This was the only time that we would be focused and calm. I guess my presence gave him the freedom to do what he wanted. As we both could not talk, we bonded on a different level altogether.
All this is not quite my boisterous routine.
If you see me at home, you will see a mischievous, rowdy seven and a half year old brat who hates following instructions of any kind. Tell me its time to go to school and I leave that bit of me aside. Instinctively I am all calm and gentle. You know the best part is that it is not so much like work. They give me treats, they pet me and at every single visit they give me lots and lots of love. What more could I ask for?
Over time, I have been enjoying my time at class so much that I never want to stop. I hope to initiate that naughty Cloey into it! Maybe I will take her along to class and let her see what my work is all about. She is interested I know with the hundred questions she barks at me when I come back home.
Here's a pic of me and my human bro Rishi Iyengar. My human family has made me what I am today and I thank them for understanding this potential in me and making me a therapy dog. It truly fulfills the purpose of my life"
-Therapy dog Rex
(Contributed by Uma Karve. e- firstname.lastname@example.org)
To know more about me and my other co-therapists, do visit our website www.animalangels.org.in. Also visit our facbook page www.facebook.com/animalangelsfoundation