What Inspired Me to Do Pet Therapy

There are a lot of different reasons that people decide to do pet assisted therapy with their dog. Some may encounter therapy teams at work. Some may have their veterinarian or obedience instructor suggest that their dog has the personality and temperament to do therapy work. Others may just notice how much their dog enjoys getting attention from everyone they meet. This was the way I realized that the Elkhound I had several years ago needed a job and had the personality for therapy work. Her name was Smokey (pictured below).

My dad always loved dogs and was one of the biggest influences on my love of dogs. He is also the reason I became comfortable approaching strangers and being able to feel comfortable visiting with them. These are two of the most important attributes for a person that wants to do pet therapy work.

My father was in a skilled nursing facility in another state for several years. My family and I were on our way to visit some friends for the weekend and stopped to visit my dad on the way. We weren’t sure that the facility would appreciate us bringing our dog into their building, so my husband stayed outside with her while my daughter and I went it to see my dad. He was usually out in a common area with seating which gave us more room and got him out of his room to socialize. The Activities Director noticed us and asked where my husband was. When I told her that he was outside with our dog she gave us permission to bring Smokey into the facility.

From then on, we always took Smokey with us when we went to visit my dad. He enjoyed seeing her and she loved going with us. She also liked getting attention from many of the other residents. One time she went to the edge of the seating area, sat down and was focused on a lady at the other end of the hall. It took several minutes for the lady to make it down the hall to us, but Smokey sat patiently waiting. She was determined that she needed to meet the lady. As it turned out, the lady had worked in a vet’s office. How Smokey could sense that this lady was that much of a dog lover, I’ll never fully understand.

After my dad passed away, I decided that Smokey needed to continue visiting people and searched for an organization in Omaha to join. I give Smokey the credit for convincing me to get involved with pet assisted therapy. We had several great years of service and experiences together. I am very fortunate that Bo, my current partner in pet therapy, has been able to step in and fill those paw prints to help me continue providing this very rewarding volunteer service.

If you happen to see a therapy team at a hospital, assisted living, skilled nursing facility or other location…do not hesitate to approach them and give those dogs a little love. They will appreciate your attention, too.


Photo Credit: Dmitry Guskov from Wikimedia Commons

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