A Frustrating Therapy Dog Visit

Maybe Delta should retire from her work as a Pet Therapy Dog.We’re between groups of kids at a center for troubled adolescents. The first group of girls came in eagerly, saw the fluffy Samoyed (white sled dog), and rushed towards her. Delta responded by barking. I wanted to sink through the floor. The understanding social worker turned the situation into a lesson on how to approach a dog. Educational, but not the main goal of Pet Therapy, and what these kids need is love and acceptance!Delta finally did give some kisses and receive some hugs – in between repeated attempts to look at the therapy rats that were also on the visit.

I try to justify her behavior to myself. She was extremely shy when I adopted her from the San Diego Humane Society, possibly even abused. A tall girl had leaned forward and reached towards Delta.A potentially threatening gesture to a shy dog, but Delta has never barked at a girl before! This is a new place for us, too, although that hasn’t bothered Delta before.And the therapy rats are a constant challenge due to Delta’s extra-high prey drive. Well, maybe it’s time for her to retire and let her younger sister continue in her paw prints.

The group of boys is due at 2:30. It turns out there’s only one today. He plays with the rats, then says hello to each of the other two therapy dogs that are visiting. He finally gets to Delta, sits cross-legged in front of her on the floor, and . . . Delta puts her head in his lap and wags her tail. I give him some dog treats, show him some commands that she knows, and in between hugs and numerous doggie kisses, she eagerly performs tricks for him. For 15 minutes, troubled boy and shy dog are totally absorbed with each other and neither could be happier. Delta, I guess you’re not ready to retire!

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