As we have discussed in past articles, therapy animals are not interchangeable. Different dogs do different things and fulfill different needs in the client.
At the same therapy center, two children work regularly with the Love Dog therapy team. Each child has a dog they have been partnered with for ongoing sessions. But new dogs are introduced as new skills are required. Sometimes we introduce a new dog because it is larger or smaller, or more intense or faster in its movements. Some dogs lie still while a child reads to him and can “turn the pages,” and some dogs are excellent “walking” dogs.
Some children we want to get real close to a very large dog so that dog has to be super steady in its movements, like Cassidy, the Airedale Terrier. This week Cassidy worked with Julian and it was a superb session. Julian was a bit hesitant because, even though he has met Cassidy before, she always seems so big to him! But soon they were nose to nose playing games and just being together.
Then we met with another little boy whose challenge is different. We wanted a big dog that could move fast and play ball and run up to the child. Always on a leash, we had the little boy throw a ball to Max and tell the dog to Drop It so the game could continue. At first a bit anxious, soon the child got into the swing of things and totally enjoyed playing with the big Border Collie.
When we make assignments it is always what the client needs, what the dog does best and what the handler is comfortable with.
I think we will switch up these two little boys and two big dogs for the next session! Each is ready for bigger challenges and, when with a different child, each dog may bring something new to the lesson.