I took this photo of Charlie before we left home for our first therapy dog visit last week. He's wearing his bandana, and the little yellow tag that says "I am a therapy dog". I was wearing his I.D. card that has his photo on it and his I.D. number.
I brushed him and took him for a walk before leaving. I took off my flip-flops and put on my Converse. I had chosen khaki shorts over plaid earlier in the morning. We looked fairly professional and well groomed.
Then we set off on foot to our destination a half block away! A summer camp at the children's program in the church on the corner.
I intentionally chose the closest location I could find for our first visit. No directions or traffic to worry about. This wasn't a medical setting and all that such a facility entails. Calling the visit therapy was a bit of a stretch. The plan was for all twenty campers to greet him, and then a few who needed "calming down" would read picture books to him before going off to lunch.
The plan got a bit mixed up, and while he was greeted with enthusiasm, he was never read to. The 20 minute visit turned into 45, and we met the day-care kids in their rooms, in addition to the campers in the gym.
All our training for the unpredictable paid off. There were linoleum floors which he slid on, he lunged towards a piece of food on the gymnasium floor, and a little boy accidentally stepped on his tail while walking behind him. Charlie yelped and the boy, who had been hesitant about petting him to begin with, tried not to cry.
I gave out dog stickers at the end of our time with the campers, which became pandemonium. The stickers were all unique: the kids began asking and pointing at which one they wanted. They were no longer sitting quietly against the wall, but crowded around me and Charlie, touching the stickers, touching him. I had to tell them to back up, not to crowd Charlie. One at a time to choose their sticker.
Note to self: Next time make sure all stickers are identical. Ask kids to line up to receive their memento.
But let me say that my heart was bursting with pride. Charlie handled his visitation beautifully. He sat by my side as the teacher called each camper who wanted to meet him one by one. They came up to him, pet his head and shoulders, and received a lick in return. I told them he might roll over and show them his belly. They could rub it if they wanted to. This occurred a couple times!
He didn't jump on anyone due to over-excitement, which always concerns me. He listened to me. The kids asked me if he could roll over or play dead. I said no to both, but I showed them how he could do spins, and jump up and catch a treat when I threw it up in the air. He caught the treat.
When we returned home, I took off his bandana and tag. He voluntarily went into his crate and slept. This showed me that while it all looked easy, he was actually working really hard.
He listened. He gave his attention and affection. I think he's going to make a really great therapy dog.
I love you, Charlie!