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Micron shares his Therapy Dog Top 5 List

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This month Micron and I will celebrate our first year anniversary of graduating Miami Valley Pet Therapy Association as an animal assisted Therapy Dog Team.

So using photos from a recent Healthy Kids Fair event, Micron and I are here to wax all philosophical on y’all about this past year’s volunteer gig in pet therapy.

Our top five things we love about pet therapy



Hey, Food Lady! Let’s do the Cartoon Dog trick again! 
You hold the leash real tight and I’ll do that
scrambly running thing.

1. Experiencing exotic locales in the nether regions

Micron demonstrates his comfort level on placing his nethers on different surfaces. He gives absolutely no mind to slick floors nor pokey mulch.  In our travels we find retirement facilities have smooth flooring that’s a little slippery for dog paws, but libraries are usually carpeted.  And the floors of elevators are pretty much random; you never know until the doors open.

I love that Micron is so well socialized and flexible about whatever may be down there supporting his weight under those baseball mitt paws that he walks into any venue with confidence. Because a worried dog is not a happy dog. 

Yeah, I had to do a finger sweep to get the
mulch out of his mouth for this shot.

And an unhappy dog isn’t going to be much help in the therapy dog world.

We have more important things to focus on during our travels.  We don’t want anything to dampen down that ridiculously sunny personality of his.

2. We meet the most interesting folk

You don’t have to be the subject of some Oscar winning biopic movie to be an amazing person, you know.  Each of us get up each day to continue writing those chapters in our life stories, right?

Hey, if there was a movie about your life who would you want to star in it? Besides yourself, that is. Micron says he wants that dude that plays Kirk in the new Star Trek movie play him. Or Jim Gaffigan.  Either one will work.

 
When we visit patients of Hospice of Dayton, Micron and I have listened while being told a life story that is, truth be told, holds my attention more than any old movie or book could. 
Hey, Blinkin! 
Did you say Abe Lincoln?*
We hear of local history made personal, family lost and found then sometimes lost again, ways to process regret and what a successful life means to an individual. And about their beloved pets from over the years. Micron’s presence brings back warm memories of that always extraordinary bond between pet and person. And those times after we have said our last good-bye to our person, their stories remain with us. We’ll carry those experiences and lessons until our own book is closed.
 
And you know what? My own life is richer because of these other folk. Truly.

3. The treats are pretty awesome, too

 
Cordell and Micron politely await some popcorn.

In the mighty Micron’s early training as a CCI puppy we thought that maybe, if he really applied himself, he might end up a service dog.  So we never offered him people food. Ever. He learned to not eat anything that fell on the floor or to be all obnoxious about asking for a dog cookie.

Well, all bets are off, Micron says now.  He’s a pet and he can sleep on the sofa any darn time he feels like it, he lets us know.  So sure, we’ve relaxed some standards. For the sofa naps, anyway.

But still, for a dog as food motivated as this big guy, I insist on maintaining the no-eating-off-the-floor and polite manners stuff.  When a fellow mvPTa friend at our info table asks if Micron can have some popcorn from her bag, I did allow it though.  The other therapy dogs working the booth were being treated from the same paper bag, so it looked as much like a dog cookie reward than people food, I thought.

In hindsight, this was a duh moment for me. There sure were a lot of kids coming by the info table that morning with bags of those salty little dog treats.  A sticky sucker clutched in a toddler’s grip was still a no-no in his canine brain. But thanks for holding that treat bag so near my tongue, kid, said Micron. Ah, but disasters were efficiently averted thanks to my hyper-vigilance. Mostly.

And the popcorn was free anyway, so there’s that.



4. Little kids are sweet things

Little boys smell like french fries with ketchup, says Micron. And little girls? They smell like cotton candy and cherry suckers.

He would know.  When he’s not snarfing popcorn from a youngster’s paper bag, he’s licking the kid’s hands. Or face. Or good grief, now that it’s sandal weather it’s the toes.

Micron is so good with kids though. He plops his self down to their level and soaks up the attention. Here’s my head, kid, says Micron. Have at it.

On a separate topic, I’m considering replacing the carpet in my house with gymnasium flooring to match the dog. 

At 14, Shelby finds herself like some of us do. It’s easier,
to get down, than back up.  So, she’ll  be glad to greet you on
all fours. Thanks for understanding, young person.

5. The free belly rubs

Micron doesn’t charge a dime for these.

So you can just do this all day long, he says. Please. Feel free to continue. It’s my pleasure.

I’d like to bring you attention to that yellow sucker poised all tempting-like in that young person’s hand. Being totally ignored by the mighty Micron, you will note.

Belly rubs trump candy on a stick, according to this canine’s value sytem.

At least this kid didn’t have popcorn

________________________________________
* Yep, another obscure movie reference.  Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).  It’s a comedy classic, people. I make no apologies. Now if I can just get a Young Frankenstein quote in here somewhere.

It’s my pleasure

Hey, Dad? Here, let me have your hand.

With fingers outstretched, a hand is placed atop the dog’s warm and softy furred head.

A smile.

He looks just like Goldie, Dad.

A nod. The smile broadens.

The hand is making smooth stroking motions, fingers feeling the long hair on the dog’s ears . . .

And then Micron starts up a vigorous slurping party with his tongue on the guy’s hand and the moment is gone.

Oh! This dog and his tongue, I say, fishing into my bag for the hand sanitizer. Ugh, I’m so sorry. Here I have some. . .

No, it’s ok, says the son. Goldie used to do the same thing. Dad would let her do that after he came home from work. It was how he relaxed.  See? Look at his face.

I do. His head is held high, the unseeing eyes focused on nothing, but his mind’s eye is bringing back memories of his Goldie for him.  This is a man who has known the love of a golden retriever.

And in this frozen little niblet of time, he is happy. 

Thank you, says the son.

It’s my pleasure, I say.

Because it’s true.

And so goes our mvPTa volunteer work as a pet therapy team at Hospice of Dayton. We still have oh-so-much to learn at this gig, but our mistakes so far have been blessedly few.

I’ve learned that just because a family wants desperately for your team to visit, the patient may not always agree. Some may even have a fear of dogs that we need to be in tune to.

Micron’s learning that some other therapy dogs actually have a need for a little personal space and don’t want his tongue up their left nostril right now, thank you very much.

And we’re both learning those things that you just can’t get in a training session.  The truths that can only be reached by the experience of it all.

Every room we enter has a person with a life story. We don’t know any of the chapters they’ve written, but we do know that if we make it into their story it will not be anything more than a few words surrounded by parentheses (we saw a dog today).  But that’s ok, really. We’re not after any big picture stuff here.

All we have to offer is a moment of peace of mind or to be able to open up a happy memory that’s been put away in deep storage. To bring a distraction to the heavy thoughts of the day.

That we can do, Micron and I. 

Good Dog, Mikey, I say.

Micron looks at me and wags his tail.  It’s my pleasure, he says.

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