This morning marked the day for taking Mackie on his second therapy visit. I was somewhat nervous about bringing him and here’s why: Mackie loves everyone and has no qualms about jumping up on people to show his eagerness to say hi and have people pet him. Today’s first visit was to a nursing home so I was doubly nervous about him jumping up. Knowing that he tends to jump up ahead of time, gave me time to figure out how I would approach people and visit with Mackie. To keep him from jumping, I literally held him by the collar so I could keep all 4 of his feet on the ground.
We arrived at our first visit ahead of time today so the dogs from the other teams could all get to see each other and get their greetings over before we went in. Five other teams made the visit and it was truly fun to make the rounds of all the residents and see how much they enjoyed petting all the dogs and hearing about each of the dogs. Several times Mackie tried to jump up on people but keeping my hand on his collar kept him from being able to achieve that. Mackie was truly enjoying all the petting and rubs that he was getting from the residents!
Five of the teams were able to make the second scheduled visit today to WINGS, a residential treatment program for adolescents with alcohol and drug issues. In the past, this visit has held for me some of the best visits in my therapy team career but also some of the saddest. Today’s visit was a mixture of both. When we initially got there, about 7 or 8 of the boys cam out and absolutely loved petting the dogs. One of the boys kept telling me how much he loved Mackie and he put him in a big bear hug. After about a half hour, we went in to visit with the girls. The sad thing is there were only two girls who wanted to see the dogs. But we made the best use of the time and I was so proud of my little deaf Mackie boy when the boy who said he loved Mackie followed us back to where the girls were and continued to pet and love on Mackie.
I told him it was obvious that he loved dogs. He said yes. I told him that he should consider a career working with dogs when he’s older. He wondered about making money but I told him he should look into it because there are many careers with dogs that can be money-making ventures. He thought about it a bit and said that he would have to look into it. Gosh, if I can impact one troubled kid to do something as an adult that he loves doing, it makes all the work that goes into being a therapy team well worth it!
We headed home after 45 minutes at our second visit. It can be tiring for the dogs to make visits–they have to be on their best behavior and concentrate on visiting with lots of people. I try to watch when my therapy dogs give me the sign that they are done. Sometimes they will pant (which can happen anyways in nursing homes since they keep the heat set fairly high), losing interest in visiting with people by walking away and acting distracted, and in the case of Olaf, barking when he’s done. I want my dogs to have a positive visit every time so if I see that they are showing signs they are ready to leave, I try to walk them out to the periphery of the visiting area and sit down with them and give them a treat or some other positive reinforcement that they did a good job. Mackie did such a great job on the two visits today. I’m so thankful that this dog, along with all my dogs, came into my life and is helping me to fulfill on my life’s purpose of making visits to people! Great job Mackie!