The clients the Love Dogs visit in Danville, a group home, cannot see or hear or speak, but they can experience touch.
Having well trained dogs that will be still for long periods of time is critical to this type of therapeutic visiting. It can sometimes take half an hour or more for a client to reach out and make contact with the dog. Any sudden movement could startle and frighten the client so only the steadiest of dogs can be used.
The look of pure joy often erupts on the faces of those who are feeling a dog for the first time. How soft. How cuddling. How comforting.
For those with few senses touch can be the pivotal pathway to experiencing the world. Dogs of different sizes and body type and length of fur bring about different reactions.
A big dog may seem scary at first until actual contact is made. A sweet, gentle big dog can change someone’s perception of large dogs. George and Bailey have met the kids living there and no one was scared by these amazing large dogs. In fact they lit up with excitement meeting them.
And having small dogs on a lap brings a sense of empowerment. “I’m holding a dog!”
Kirby, Benny and Izzi have all visited and been warmly greeted and hugged and loved on.
Animal-assisted therapy dogs and their handlers who have the aptitude for this type of intense work make a difference every moment of their visit. The dogs in the Love Dogs program are all Delta Society Pet Partners and have had the most rigorous training and testing.
They all have that x-factor – they just love people but are calm, quiet, steady and patient. They understand their role in the process and know that they don’t have to “do” anything sometimes – they just have to be the vehicle for the power of touch.