Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Interns

We doggies are often called ‘man’s best friends’. But in many heartwarming cases, ‘Man’ has turned out to be our best friend. Many of us  are lucky to have stable and loving families, but for others, life is full of abandonment and uncertainty. Being given up by your family, being abandoned as a puppy, is the most emotionally painful thing for a dog to experience. But many such doggies, do get a second chance when an ‘angel’, a ‘good human’, picks them up and makes them a part of their loving family. Love is all we need after all. To tell you just how much it can change our lives, here are the stories of 3 of my interns - Myshka, Pearl and Milo.
Therapy dog Myshka
Myshka, Milo and Pearl are my interns. They are young dogs, in-training under me to become therapy dogs. They are being groomed by me to learn the finer nuances of how a therapy dog should behave. But Oh My God! right now they are just a bunch of high energy kids, who just want to play and get into trouble. Myshka is the eldest, but still thinks she’s a puppy. Pearl looks like a mature young dog, but is the one who will silently chew up a charger or a sofa, or provoke Milo to misbehave. Milo or Monkey as he is fondly called, is the youngest and the naughtiest of all. He is outrightly a brat!! But they all have golden hearts, with potential to heal the hearts of those in need. Only if they can focus, and learn! I understand their free spiritedness and know that this sense of freedom and security has come to them after a long time. Coming from foster homes and neglected families, they found their way to Animal Angels family who gave them a second chance.

Myshka, a female fawn Lab with light brown eyes and a pinkinsh brown nose, is the cuddly pup every dog lover dreams of. She was abandoned as a pup by two previous families before being adopted by our therapist Gayatri Ayyer. When she was adopted, Myshka was an overexcited pooch with high energy levels and impaired social skills. She could never sit steadily in one place and would jump at the slightest of noises or movements. A behaviour at which I would often roll my eyes.

Myshka and Gayatri in a therapy session
But after coming into this family, Myshka has found stability. Gayatri, her family, me and the Animal Angels team has worked with her to make her feel secure and loved.  Over the past few months, she has been trained to be calm, understanding and patient at work but maintains her playful nature when free, always willing to fetch that ball for you. At work she now knows how to respond to the emotional needs of the special children that she works with. Her new human family has also benefited a lot since she entered their lives. She has helped them overcome their grief over the death of their former pets. She is almost one and a half years old now, and has been with her family for a year. Her pet parent- Gayatri, says that Myshka has helped her become a better trainer and therapist.

Pearl, in some ways, is an exact opposite of Myshka. She comes off as an extremely calm and understanding young Golden Retriever, who can be very quiet , unlike a retriever pup. But this calmness is very deceiving, as she might be quietly chewing up something for all you know. I have to really keep a keen eye on her when she comes over for her training.  

Pearl with her trainer and handler, Aakash

Pearl working as a Comfort Dog at Mumbai International Airport 
The year old pup has been with the Kelkar family for 5 months now and has helped them in great ways in this short span of time. Her parent, Mr. Kelkar, knew that she was the right choice, the moment he met her for the first time at a farm in Pune. Mr. Kelkar lives with his wife and mother-in-law. With both his sons being settled abroad, and he having retired from his job, he had dedicated his time towards our work at Animal Angels. Mr. Kelkar had seen Pepe and me work since a long time, and he had always wished to have a therapy dog, not only for himself, but as a benefit for the society. When they got her home, she became a steady companion for him and his family. Mr. Kelkar’s 84 year old mother-in-law, who was initially reluctant to having a pet in the house, literally had a change of heart. Now she plans her entire day to have Pearl well cared for. Pearl has filled in the loneliness that this family felt in the house.

Pearl with Mr Kelkar

The family is now deeply attached to Pearl, and says she’s been a great emotional support to them. Pearl recently lived with Pepe and me a few days ago, when Mr. Kelkar went off overseas and we later heard him tell Aakash how she has learnt a lot from us, her seniors. He says Pearl has been the best choice and his heart swells with pride and love to see his little pooch help those children at school overcome challenges just as she did for him and his family.

Baby Milo
Milo, the Mahogany Cocker Spaniel, the only boy of the batch and the most active of them all, has a story of his own. He was abandoned as a two month old puppy! Just imagine!! Who would do that!! He was neglected by his former owners, who were first time pet owners, and had no clue how to handle a high energy pup in his teething phase. By the time he was rescued, he had developed severe trust issues with humans and had to be rehabilitated. He used to get scared whenever anyone approached him. He would be very defensive of being touched and held.

When he was adopted by the Lonkar family, little did they know that this notorious little boy had the potential to be patient and heal someone. Aakash and Sneha, his parents worked tirelessly on his behavior, with senior Therapy dog Pepe and me, as his constant companions and friends. Slowly, but steadily he started developing trust in humans around him. He turned out to have an excellent temperament when it came to working with children. His transformation from that of a scared little canine to, ‘Milo - the Monkey’; the name he currently responds to, and which describes his personality perfectly- is indeed astonishing!

Milo has been living with Pepe and me for quite some time now, and we are helping him learn our ways of being a therapy dog. Recently he debuted as a therapy dog! He did a solo session as a, at a center for mentally challenged adults. He did exceptionally well, and followed almost all the pointers that I had taught him about being in a therapy session. Pepe and me and the entire Animal Angels family was extremely proud of him. He has indeed come a long way. Its not like he's all well behaved all of a sudden. He still needs to learn a lot about patience and responding to emotions. There are still a few behavior issues that I need to iron out in him. He's still Milo - the monkey for me, but the love he has brought into the family is immeasurable.

I am Therapy Dog Goldie. Me and my team of therapy dogs work with Animal Angels Foundation, India's only organization working in the field of Animal Therapy. To know more about our work, you can log on to www.animalangels.org.in or follow us on Facebook - www.facebook.com/animalangelsfoundation

Inputs by Niharika Ravi

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