How to assess which dog is right for the job

Benny was so comfortable he took a nap with his friend

Benny was so comfortable he took a nap with his friend

I visit seven facilities each week with either Kirby or Benny. Since Kirby’s last surgery, I had to reassess his ability to go to each environment and make the difficult decision to “retire” him from certain places.

In our Pet Partners Workshop we spend a great deal of time discussing the broad range of volunteer opportunities and ways in which the animals are utilized as part of therapeutic care teams. It is not enough for the handler to want to go to a particular facility or do specific therapy work – it has to be appropriate for the animal.

Benny was very happy when a little hand reached out to him

Benny was very happy when a little hand reached out to him

Kirby is now a bit more fragile than before. He still loves working and is capable of continuing but I want to remove as much stress as possible. Thus he won’t be going to those places which we would consider Complex and require him to be handled by unsteady hands.So I brought Benny on Saturday to visit with the children who are multiply challenged. Usually Kirby lies on a child’s lap or between their legs or by their side. Now I wanted to see if Benny was as solid as Kirby and if he loved this type of population as much.

Benny always makes time to visit with our wonderful staff

Benny always makes time to visit with our wonderful staff

He sure did!

Benny had been here before but this week we were the only team. Usually we have at least 3 dogs in the room but this week – just Benny. So he had to work triple hard and make sure he had quality time with everyone.

Benny snuggled right in and found just the perfect position whether it was perched on a lap or snuggled beside a child in their wheelchair.

The kids seemed a bit tired this week and Benny had no problem with that! He took a nap too!

On the days when we have fewer dogs, it is even more important that the dog who is there is appropriate for every child and Benny did a great job. Whether he was with a child who was agitated and displaying jerky movements or a child who wanted to hold on to his fur, Benny adapted beautifully.

And when he sat with our lead staff person, I knew he understood his job was not just for the kids. He somehow realized she was having a tough day too and snuggled in and rested his head on her lap and they were both able to take a break.

So as I watch one of my dogs slow down a bit, I am so proud to watch the other rise to every occasion.