When you are an animal assisted therapy team it is not just all about the dogs. The other end of the leash, the human, is as important when relating to clients.
Encouraging conversation is a big part of what we do and the animal is often the vehicle to do much more. During the Pet Partner evaluation we put a lot of emphasis on role playing and how the human volunteer will relate to those they work with. It is so much more than just bringing a dog into the mix.
This week Petey has been ill. He is recovering slowly but will probably not be able to work through the heat of the Las Vegas summer.
He has several weekly assignments that are just his, not my other dog, Benny. Petey is unique because he is so tiny and non-threatening, he can work places the other Love Dogs can’t.
I had considered taking Benny to some of these places but they really are not Benny’s forté and I also did not want to over work him either in the heat. He has enough to do through the week and needs the off days to just be a dog.
Most of our Love Dog facility partners do not have other volunteers who visit, just us with the dogs. So I wondered if my going on my own would be beneficial or not.
But now that Petey is going to have to take off a few weeks, I wanted to try visiting on my own. Why not? I did wonder if people would remember me without the tiny dog in my arms. Would people enjoy a visit from me when we could only talk about Petey and look at photos? Would they worry too much that he was not well?
So I went to one of our favorite facilities without a dog, a first for me!
I decided to simply tell people it was too hot for the tiny dog so he was taking the summer off.
I was absolutely delighted when one woman asked if I’m the lady who brings Petey, because I did not have the chance yet to explain about his not being with me. I told her the heat was not his friend and she wanted to hear how he was and I showed her some pictures of him resting at home. We sat and chatted a while and she seemed to enjoy the company.
Then I went to another place I usually bring Petey and had a similar experience. Because I told them upfront that he was just too small to go out in the hot summer and did not worry them with all the details, they were not overly concerned. They all knew who I was and made the connection to the dog at the other end of my leash. I told them how I had to give him water in a syringe so he got enough and had to really mash up his food so it was super soft. I told them he went to the doctor several times and they were taking good care of him.
Then I decided to have some children make get well cards for him and that turned out to be a great activity.
I told them Benny was being a very good brother and staying close to watch over him.
So while we are there to be Pet Partners with our animal, never forget the importance of what we as the human end of the leash contribute.