Taylor is a beautiful young girl who lives with several other youth. They all have life altering challenges and are aided by the most caring staff. The Love Dog therapy team is there every week working with all of the kids. Two small dogs go regularly and I have written about them extensively, Izzy and Cedar. Breakthrough after breakthrough has occurred with these little dogs and their dedicated owners.
But Taylor needs a large dog to work with. She sits on the floor and needs a dog that is sturdy. Sometimes she can love too much and be a little rough so handlers and staff are always circled around her as she interacts with the dogs. Over the years she has had several large dog partners including Bailey, who showed her how to be gentle, and George who is so large that she learned to not be afraid.
But one dog had a very special place in her heart, Izzie.
Izzie, an Australian Shepherd, and her handler, Mary, were responsible for Taylor being able to be form a relationship and learn to receive touch in a caring way. She stopped pulling hair, her own and others. She stopped screaming and flailing her arms. She stopped lying down and shutting down.
But more important than what she stopped, is what she started doing.
The dogs brought joy into her life.
Taylor learned to trust.
And she started understanding that people, not just the dogs, could be her friends. She gave her first real hugs to Izzie’s owner, deep loving hugs.
But then Izzie and her mom had to move away. A military family is always on the move so with a tug at her heart, Izzie and her mom moved a few months ago.
We have been waiting for just the right therapy team to become available for Taylor. Not just any dog would do. Not just any humans at the other end of the leash.
This is not an easy assignment. The dog has to be patient and still, the handlers have to have superb handling skills while wanting to communicate with Taylor, who speaks very little.
We found that perfect team. Kristi and her daughter Hope introduced their seven year old Chocolate Lab, Kona, to Taylor today and it was magic.
This first visit far surpassed our expectations. Taylor somehow knew this was “her” new dog and was not resistant at all. She leaned in and wanted to be sniffed by Kona. When she became too excited and leaned over or reached out, Kona’s handlers were skilled in maintaining the safety of their animal.
Taylor loves to play Peekaboo so she did this with Kona. Little blanket on and off her head … and Kona never wavered from her mission. She stayed calm and steady as the blanket went on and off.
Then Taylor took the brush we use (very soft bristles) and brushed Kona on her back.
Then the magic – Taylor reached out independently to pet Kona…softly.Touchdown!
We ended the session on a high with Taylor laughing and the dog resting.
While we know Taylor will never forget the other dogs that led her to Kona, she can now appreciate a new journey with this beautiful dog. Change is not easy for Taylor but today proved she can adapt and she can be resilient and she can recover from sadness and loss.
And she can love again.