Way back in the day, Inara was a registered therapy dog with Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs. She was okay at it, however, she always struggled to keep her exuberance to a minimum at nursing homes. And I never felt like we’d honestly earned the therapy dog “title” as the test was a farce. The training center we took it at passed every dog, even the one that growled at a boy as he came through the doorway. So I never felt we’d actually earned our TD or CGC titles. Partly because of that, but mostly because it was just not working for Inara’s personality, we quit doing therapy work and didn’t renew our membership with Bright & Beautiful.
Fast forward several years. Inara has become much better behaved and I now understand that there are more options than nursing homes for therapy work. So my friend, Laurie, who is a CPDT-KA and CBCC-KA and owner of Side By Side Dog Training, offered a workshop to help evaluate dogs for therapy work and teach us the options that are out there. I was a bit hesitant as I still sometimes doubt Inara’s and my skills, but signed up anyway.
So I took the day off work yesterday and drove an hour to the public library that was hosting the workshop. The closer I got, the more jittery I got. To the point where I almost called Laurie and cancelled when I was about a block away. It was bad. And ridiculous, to be frank. But I can’t help it. I always have horrible flashbacks of Inara turning into Cujo like she used to do. And we were going to be in a library, where it should be quiet. What if she barked?!?
But I put on my big girl panties, parked and made my way inside. There was already one dog in the (small) room so Inara announced her presence loudly, mortifying me as I dragged her to her corner. Laurie, being the wonderful trainer that she is, cheerfully told me that Inara’s bark had changed and that it was less serious now. More of a “oh my gosh we’re dogs!” excited bark than her “I’m going to eat you if I reach you” bark. That one little comment made a huge difference for me (sign of a good trainer – knows the perfect thing to say to get her students to relax).
After that, Inara was a dream. She snoozed in her crate during the down times, and worked beautifully with me during the work times. I was able to bring her out of her corner and work her within a few feet of another dog. There were six dogs in a relatively small room, so it was kind of close quarters, but we made it work. I was bursting with pride in Inara knowing how far she’d come. Hell, how far WE’D come.
So near the end of the workshop, we all wandered through the library with our dogs as part of the observation process. Of course, almost as soon as Inara and I made it into the main library part, a teenage girl made a huge scene, nearly falling over chairs, as she pretended to be terrified of Inara. *sigh* Whatever. I have no doubt that she’s nervous about dogs, but the scene was unnecessarily dramatic.
Other than that though, it was great! Inara got some good lovin’s by a couple little kids (who very politely asked if they could pet her before doing so! Click/treat to the kids and their parents!) and she was very well-behaved. She had a minor snark at one of the dogs whose owner allowed it to get right up in her face, but it was an appropriate correction from her and she immediately recovered.
After that we went to a nursing home. The residents loved the dogs! They enjoyed telling us about their own dogs, and one woman spent about two minutes telling me about how she brushes her dog’s teeth every night when he comes to visit. She then proudly pointed out his toothbrush and toothpaste. I asked if she wanted to brush Inara’s teeth for me and she said she was willing to give it a try. *grin*
One woman just fell in love with Inara and wanted her in her lap. I didn’t let her though for fear that Inara’s nails would be rough or she’d pull out her oxygen mask. So she stayed on the floor and got some MAJOR loves, body wagging with joy. It was really great to see. :-)
Inara had a couple little barking episodes since a new dog had joined the group, but as Laurie pointed out to me when she saw me getting stressed over her behavior, “dogs bark.” They do, indeed. She again recovered and resumed working well, so it wasn’t a crisis.
So we are very close to passing all of our observations – fingers crossed! Thank you so much to Laurie for having the confidence and faith in us that I sometimes lack. ;-)