Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My Most Favorite Place

                                                   
With schools being closed over the summer Maggie and I have had the opportunity to shift out focus and spend time with middle school kids (and the literacy program) at many libraries across the area. We’ve traveled to the East town Library, Ridley Park Library, Ridley Township Library and the Gladwyne Library. Seeing smile’s on kid’s faces when they greet Maggie is one thing but when they have a book in hand adds to the delight. Many of these programs are scheduled in the evening as these kids are in camp during the day. They come in raring to go with tons of energy to read and tons of questions about Maggie.
I am always curious which books each child picks to read. This season I have seen a lot of “Captain Underpants”, Pete the Cat series”, A bunch of books about animals, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, and some “Judy Blume’s a tale of the Fourth Grade Nothing”.
Being a part of the Literacy program is a wonderful experience. The idea is for the kids to read to the dog (or rabbit) in a non judge-mental environment. I love that the program continues over the summer as well. It helps reinforce their reading skills.
Does anyone remember the old Zany Brainy stores? They had a summer reading program for kids. The idea was to read a book a week and come in to the store and talk about it. What a great concept. Parents had to come drop the kids off for reading/discussion time at the store. Reading time=shopping time! My kids were part of this program and loved it as well. (I can’t begin to tell you how many toys we bought at the same time!)
This summer reading program has been a win win (and win). Maggie gets lots of hugs and treats. The kids get to practice their reading while petting Maggie and I get to be in my most favorite place.

The Library!!

Monday, August 7, 2017

My Own Bit of Therapy

                                              
I recently received some unfortunate news concerning a family member. Over the course of the following days I turned to Maggie as a source of comfort. As this was not my only time I have literally sat on my kitchen floor snuggling with Maggie I got to thinking… when I take Maggie on her visits the time allotted is one hour. We do this so not to wear out the dogs. When we are at the hospital we are on the go and move from room to room. There is no set time for each room but we try to visit as many rooms as possible. My question is how much benefit does one really get from a few minute visit from Maggie? What I mean to say is when I was on my kitchen floor with Maggie and feeling very down I spent quite some time with her-as much time as I needed till I felt a little better. I’m not saying that the people in the hospital are all feeling down but does a quick visit really elevate their mood?
Well, I certainly hope so. I also know for a fact that for the elderly people we visit it gives them something to trigger a memory, especially if they’ve had a pet before in their life. Hopefully this will be a happy memory.
Another thought worth mentioning is that quite often while either walking Maggie (especially over the summer at the shore) or else just sitting outside of Starbucks I will be approached by an individual to say Maggie reminds them of either their dog or a dog they know . This starts a conversation while they are petting her. This leads to a continued conversation about Maggie being a therapy dog etc. etc.
I’ve gotten a couple of responses of “I’ve been thinking about doing that with my dog.”
It makes me happy to be able to share my life with random people. It bothers me that we pass people on the street without uttering a hello every so often. I like to connect with people.

A dog can really bring people together in so many ways!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Where Are The Dogs?

                                                                                
As Maggie and I entered the VA Hospital last week we were greeted by one of our regulars. He was about to enter the Physical Therapy room as he spotted us walking down the hall. We usually check in at the Recreation Therapy Center first before doing our rounds but I stopped first to greet “Jim”.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Jim said
“Good to see you.”
“I need some good pet therapy today. I just found out my buddy died earlier today.”
“So sorry to hear,” I said as I ushered Maggie over so he could pet her.
As Jim is in a wheelchair I watched as he laid his face in her fur. Maggie being very used to this behavior rested her body on his chair and waited for him to pull back. When he came up for air he proceeded to tell me the story of how his friend was discharged from the hospital earlier in the week.  He saw his friend’s number come up on his cell phone but figured he would call him back later. Later never came as a massive heart attack took his (friends) life.
Now riddled with guilt Jim just needed some time with Maggie. I stayed with him as he spent some time with her. When he looked up at me I noticed some moisture in his eyes.
“Thanks I needed that,” he said as he turned to enter the PT room.

I had a feeling the rest of the visit would be comforting as well.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dog, Cat, Rabbit Therapy

                        
Dog Therapy, Cat Therapy or Rabbit Therapy, it doesn’t really matter what type of animal offers love and comfort one needs. And it doesn’t matter if it is alive or not… What?
Maggie and I were visiting at the Haverford nursing home. It happened to be a beautiful day so many of the residents were sitting in the garden. When we approached a group sitting in a circle we heard a “meow” and saw a cat on a gentleman’s shoulder. At first glance the cat looked real and Maggie pulled me over. But when she smelled the cat she became momentarily confused. The cat continued to meow but the smell it emitted was not the smell Maggie expected.
The gentleman that was holding this cat was petting it continually and as I watched him he sincerely cared for it. He talked to it every so often and in response it purred. The gentleman was coherent and took a turn petting Maggie as well. I conversed with him, even asked him the name of his cat, “Captain”.
He genuinely seemed happy holding his “therapy cat”. I made eye contact with the head of the unit and she smiled. Whatever works she commented.
So who is to judge if the cat is alive or not, as long as it offers someone the comfort an individual needs then go for it!

I continue to learn. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Skunked?

                                                         
Whether or not your dog has been skunked is not a lesson you are given in puppy school, but when Maggie came in the house the other morning I knew something was wrong. The smell that came with her could only mean bad news. She looked at me with uncertain eyes as if to say I really don’t know what just happened to me.
I waited till the local pet shop opened and ran Maggie over, in hopes of being able to bathe her there. They confirmed my suspicions, sold me a bunch of product but turned me away saying the smell would permeate their store- thanks anyway L!!
Driving home with my smelly beloved and now smelly car I started to panic. How was I going to handle this 75 lb dog in a household bathtub by myself? By the time I got home I had formulated a plan. I emailed by groomer who usually comes to my house in her van (her van had just gone to the garage for service) so I called the local pet shops that have in house groomers until I found one with availability to take a smelly skunked dog. Shout out to Mindy’s Pet’tique for taking us on short notice. They did a good job but I was not prepared for the news that it might actually take 2-3 baths to get rid of the skunk smell. UGH!!
Meanwhile, I had to deal with the smell in my car, my house and my clothes (since I came into contact with Maggie) I asked my trusted friend Google who had lots of valuable advice and I spent the rest of the day spreading baking soda, Lysol and dawn liquid all over.
Next a phone call was placed to the Wild Life Removal Service to trap the critter(s) that are most probably living under my shed. My goal is to keep Maggie away from that location. I feel like a helicopter mom. Every time she goes out I hover over her so she doesn’t go near the shed. Maggie isn’t used to this behavior from me.

All because she’s a normal curious dog!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Off Duty?

                                        
I’ve commented before that when walking Maggie in the neighborhood she feels it is her duty to greet everyone. Sometimes it makes for a “quick” walk a rather long one.
Last week on a visit to the Jersey Shore we were out walking. Approaching us was a couple, the man was in a wheelchair. I noticed the man look at Maggie and smile. I never assume anyone likes dogs but it was clear this man did. As we got closer he asked if he could pet Maggie. I replied yes. Maggie is very used to wheelchairs and as this persons lap is just at her head level she laid her head on it. His smile turned into a laugh. He then noticed her tag that says she is a therapy dog and asked about it.  I explained that we visit hospitals and nursing homes to help cheer people up. I also explained that once Maggie saw his wheelchair approaching she had already changed from a dog out for a walk to a therapy dog out to do a job.
I’ve witnessed this one other time with Maggie. We were invited to a BBQ and decided to take Maggie with us. Someone was there in a wheelchair. Maggie made it her mission to pull me over to this person to make sure they received a visit by her. I’m not sure who benefited more the person in the wheelchair or Maggie.
Of course after we finish with a visit Maggie looks to me for praise (she gets lots!!) A treats helps as well. Usually I ask the person we are visiting if they want to give Maggie a treat and most of the time they do.
Maggie being on the large size (75lbs) has large teeth but you’d be surprised how gently she takes the treat from your hand.

So even when I’m in a hurry but I know Maggie needs her walk I’ve learned when she gets something in her head to just let her take care of her goal as opposed to changing her mind!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Does Color Really Matter?

                                        
I always say after 5 years of visits with Maggie I continue to learn.
This past week Maggie and I went to our last school visit of the year. I was telling a 12 year old boy the story of how Maggie got her name…Our family chose a few names and we narrowed it down to two names, Katie and Phoebe. We decided to wait to meet her to choose the final name. But when we met her we decided she looked more like a Maggie then a Katie or a Phoebe. The story continues with when I took Maggie to the Vet the technician that was helping had the name Heidi. I told her that was one of the names we had considered for Maggie. I told her this because I thought she would consider this an honor. But instead she turned to me with a nasty look on her face. The young boy I was talking to asked me if the tech was white or black. Not sure I heard his question properly I asked him to repeat it. When he asked me the question the same way I looked him in the eyes and asked him if it made a difference.
This got me thinking. As a white woman entering a school with a black student population I wonder what they think of me. I look around from time to time and notice a predominately black teacher population (this classroom had a white teacher) Uniforms are enforced and everyone must have an ID as well. Students as well as visitors are buzzed in and adults are monitoring the hallways.
Needless to say I do standout in this particular school, but I never feel threatened. They do love seeing Maggie and generally shout “dog in the hallway!” If anything I am encircled but only to be asked if they can pet Maggie.
But back to the 12 year old boy, at what age did this young boy learn to ask this question.
When I turned it around and asked him if it made a difference he got uncomfortable. He did not answer me and ultimately got up and walked away.

I get that we are a product of our environment. But who is responsible to teach these young minds to look at the world differently? Does it start at home or at the school?