Our therapy dog journey begins

Tension filled the meet room as new potential volunteers dipped a tentative paw into the world of Oregon Coast Therapy Animals yesterday. I suspect we were all thinking variations of the same thing: Taking our dogs to work their furry magic in places where people are sick, anxious or troubled sounds fabulous, but can we pass the stiff evaluation test, can we afford the many fees, and do we really have as much time as seems to be involved? Classes, tests, training, continuing education, meetings and visits to various facilities a couple times a week–Can we really do this?

There are lots of rules involved in taking a dog into places where animals don’t usually go. They must certified as healthy, be clean from nose to tail, and behave well at all times. All of this applies to the owners as well. In addition, the owners must undergo criminal background checks, and the pet partner teams must be insured. All OCTA members must join Delta Society, which oversees a national pet partner program.

And yet, the rewards seem tremendous. I have already taken my dog to my husband’s nursing home and seen residents who never talk to people talk to Annie. I have seen people who always seem to be cranky soften as they pet my dog’s soft tan fur. I have felt the peace and light that a dog brings into a room. It seems worth the effort to do whatever it takes to use that power for healing and happiness.

Plus we’d get name tags, a spiffy green shirt for me, parties and new friends, and Annie gets to go for more rides. Oh, happy dog.

I was pleased to see my friends Lyn and Darrell from yoga class at the orientation. Are people who are drawn to yoga also drawn to doing good deeds with their dogs?

I came home to a restless, crazy dog who delights in grabbing paper from my recycle box and making me chase her around the house to get it back. I took her out for a walk in the rain, doubling our training exercises. She did well, giving me a look that seemed to say, “That was fun. What next?” This is not going to be an easy journey, but we’ll take it one step at a time.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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