Big Pupi finishes his tale:
Okay, okay... so that's an old photo of me (notice the lack of 'hawk and winter leg fuzz), but that's pretty much what I've been up to the past few days, thanks to therapy-induced exhaustion and the mini blizzard outside.
Right. So... to finish my Tale of the Therapy Visit. Where was I...
I was still a little more excitable than mom would have liked me to be when the hospital nurses began bringing in the kids. There were people EVERYWHERE and they well ALL looking and smiling at us canines. I even had a small swarm of nurses taking photos of me on their cell phones because they couldn't get over the fact that I arrived sporting bright red rubber boots (they help prevent me from slipping all over the floor - important when leaping through hula hoops!). I used this as a prime opportunity to work on my modeling skills and so I sat, lied down, showed my belly, and otherwise acted like a ham. (Mmmm... ham.)
We introduced ourselves to the children. We got to spend lots of quality one-on-one time with them since there were 4 dogs for 5 kids, and that made our visit extra special. My very first human pup was a pretty little girl, about 8 years old, who was developmentally disabled. Today the nurses wanted to work on getting her to respond and react to her surroundings and they thought the dogs would provide great stimulation. They didn't know what I had up my furry sleeves! I sat on a chair next to the girl (she was in a wheel chair and I'm a wee boy in need of a boost), and I made my introductions by giving her a gentle kiss right on the chin. The nurse held the girl's hand and pet my mohawk, then cupped the human pup's palm so that she could feed me treat after treat. It was awesome! But no matter how slobbery wet I made her palm or how many Good Boy Give Kisses I doled out she just would not look at me nor show any signs that she recognized my presence. Fed up with the lack of progress, I heaved myself up onto her highchair-style table and balanced there, shifting my weight from one foot to another, only inches from her face. It was then that her body gave a little jerk and her eyes grew wide like saucers. She was looked at me - a very, very big deal. Her eyes traced the spots in my fur and the nurse guided her hand along my back. "Look! She's responding! She alert!" the nurse kept telling her co-worker. "This is incredible!" I held my position until the human pup began to fall asleep - I guess the intense stimulation was a lot for her to handle - and I leaned back and gave her a kiss on the nose before jumping down.
My next human was a young boy, about the same age as the girl and also in a wheel chair. There were all sorts of tubes coming from beneath his sheets, so I was not allowed to climb up and give him my Hello Smooches. Instead, I performed all of my tricks for him and he loved it! I even did my targeting tricks for him - I use an old, plastic, large yogurt lid and on the command "Touch It!" I will poke it will my schnozzle or slap it with my paws. The boy held the lid and flung it from one side of his chair to the other, making me run in circles and leap through the air. He would toss the lid across the room and I'd chase after it, slapping it down with my paws before returning to the boy for a tasty niblet. He laughed and laughed and when it came time for me to move to the next human I overheard him say to his dad: "That dog is sooooo cooooool."
Human pup number 3 was another boy, about 6 this time, and he was a little nervous around dogs. He wouldn't allow any of them near him, but after seeing some of my tricks he asked to meet me. I did some Hulas and Sits and Downs, and then mom asked the boy to hold the hula hoop for me so I could jump through. Before I knew what was going on, the boy got so excited about my hopping skillz that he moved the hoop higher... and higher... and higher. Gulp. It got so high that I needed a running start just to get through it! But jump I did and I made it through every single time. The boy rubbed my lucky mohawk and I was off to the next kid.
This girl was around 16 years old and had recently undergone some sort of brain surgery that left her working to regain motor control. Her motions were slow, concentrated and gentle. She kept cupping her hands to ask for treats to feed me and in the most purposeful way she would reach out to rub the lucky 'hawk. I put all of my hoop jumping and target touching energy behind me and I sat ever so still on the chair next to her, leaning my head gently forward to bring my mohawk within her reach. I licked her hands on command, crawled onto a pillow in her lap when asked, and gave kisses to her cheeks. I moved slowly, softly and quietly around her, and made sure that some part of me always remained within her reach. Her mom snapped pictures wildly as she took my paw in her hand and gave a slow up-and-down shake to tell me that it was a job well done. The nurse by her side couldn't believe how calm and focused she was - I guess she would often get frustrated and give up. But then... that's the magic of Animal Assisted Therapy.
And the magic of the mohawk.
So that was my big day. I loved every single second of it. I slept so soundly in the car that mom could hear muffled snoozel snores coming from the back seat on the way home. Man, my tail wagging muscles were sore the next day! But I'm counting down the seconds 'til the next round. Bring it on! This lucky mohawk needs a good rubbin'.
Friday, January 9, 2009