Celebrating teams in action who accomplish
extraordinary things through service.
My dog will be the perfect Therapy Dog, She is a natural – is what we all think of our dog, and is why most of us sign up for the classes. I didn’t know anyone who was involved with pet therapy or any other such program, so I did a Google search and found WMTD.
I started in the November 6 class – December 18. In January I started the first of my three shadowing’s at a rehab center. There was a young man there in a wheel chair that had been in an accident and was not moving or responding. Chloe went up to his feet, which were straight out in front of him and elevated. He had no socks on. Chloe started licking his toes. The young man jumped and pulled his foot away. I started to apologize for startling him, and the fact that Chloe was a big licker. But the therapist observed what had happened and asked me to bring Chloe around to the side of the wheel chair where his arm was just dangling, clenched fist, hanging at his side. Chloe started to lick his fist, working her tongue around the fingers trying to squeeze between them. Chloe started nudging his hand with her nose and licking it. Then the most amazing thing happened. HE OPENED HIS HAND ever so slowly, AND STARTED TO OPEN AND CLOSE IT. Chloe ducked her head under the now open hand and it just rested it on top of Chloe head. It would fall off and Chloe would nudge her head under his hand/arm and lift it back up so he could pet her again. Petting in this instance was a slight opening and closing. IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! The therapist and myself both got tears in our eyes. Then the young man leaned toward the side of the chair where Chloe was sitting. They said it was a BIG break through! What a day!!!! If this is the only reward Chloe and I get from all this training, it was well worth it. I read about these things happening and could hardly believe it, but never thought I would be part of it.
Our first ‘solo’ visit was to the “Project Homeless Connect” at the Van Andel Arena in late January of 2009. Having just finished reading the book “Under the Overpass” about the homeless, I felt I just had to attend this. One situation that really touched me was while walking around making Chloe available for petting, was a man sitting close by who called my dog to him. He started petting, then hugging and squeezing, then talking to Chloe. He started telling my dog things that made me feel like I was eavesdropping just standing there (because "when someone is touching my dog, I am touching my dog"). He told Chloe that ‘only you can love me unconditionally’, ‘you will love me no matter what I have done in the past’ (and then proceeded to tell Chloe the details). Chloe snuggled closer to him, then laid her head and chest across his lap. The man responded and laid his upper part of his body on top of Chloe and then started to sob. Chloe lifted her head and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I couldn’t believe that my dog seemed to know exactly what this person needed. He asked me if I ever went to “Degage”. I said no, I don’t know what that is, and asked about it. He told me I just had to go there, that there would be other people there that would need Chloe’s unconditional love.
I now volunteer at Degage, a homeless shelter in downtown Grand Rapids. Just seeing the smile on these otherwise defeated looking faces, when we come around the corner walking down the street is so rewarding. Just to brighten the lives even a little of these people, and to give them some one who will listen to their hardships and not be judgmental is what Chloe and I are more than willing to give.
For only a 9 year old Golden Retriever, Chloe has had quite an education.