Thursday, October 22, 2009

The human/canine connection

Animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities (in this case therapy dog visits) benefit a wide range of populations. Monday Murphy* and I worked one-on-one with an elderly woman in a local eldercare community. Mrs. Smith had been ill recently and on this day needed to work on her mobility - using a walker - as well as range of motion, dexterity, and cognition. She finished lunch and her recreation therapist suggested she walk with Murphy down the hall to one of the living rooms. Each time Mrs. Smith paused in her walk down that long hall, we encouraged her to follow Murphy, which she did, happily. When we settled into a comfortable chair in the living room, Mrs. Smith groomed Murphy with his doggy wipes, filled his treat ball, threw the ball for Murphy, and finally walked him back to where we started. Thus ended 40 minutes of therapy that included big smiles, reminiscing, and tons of puppy love, as well as

Tuesday evening Murphy and I visited Safe Harbor Shelter whose purpose is to end domestic violence in the community. Murphy and I visit often, hanging out in the playroom with kids while their moms are in group counseling sessions. This particular night, we sat in the waiting room chatting with another volunteer when in walked a mother and daughter. When seven-year-old Lisa saw Murphy, she threw her arms around him, with the query "where have you been?" Thus began nearly 90 minutes of interaction between this little girl and the big brown dog. She drew pictures of him, learned how to spell his name, played dress-up (the pink feather boa looks quite nice on him), hugged, kissed, and talked to him. Murphy reciprocated with patience, wags, and occasional wet, sloppy kisses, which as always with little girls ... produced giggles.

*Murphy is my 90-pound chocolate Lab who, at 4-1/2, has worked as a therapy dog for three years. As members of Life's Journey Therapy Dogs, he, Dixie the GSD and Nana the Newfoundland provide comfort to individuals and groups in and around central Virginia.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Be a Hero

Two stories, same day. Both about dogs. One was about a dog named Sam who was "mistakenly" killed by the police in the UK. The other was about trunk fighting - apparently invented in the U.S. Just what this world needs: a new way for dogs to die at the hands of stupid, cruel, mean-spirited people.

Every day I read, see, hear about horrible things happening to animals. Every day I read, see, hear about wonderful things happening to animals. When will the good outweigh the bad? When will people finally understand that cruelty to animals kills the human spirit? When will the good guys, the animal lovers, the activists outnumber the bad guys? It will be when every single one of us gets off our collective asses and does something! Monetary donations to your favorite animal charity are great. That money is necessary. But what else can you do? Here are a few ideas. Make a difference. Do it today.
  • Report animal cruelty of any kind to animal control, the police, rescue groups, the media, government officials - anyone and everyone you can think of. Do you know about a dog fighting ring? Learn what to do about it here. Does someone in your neighborhood chain their dog outside? This is your link. No longer can we set idly by and expect others to do what is right. Each of us must get involved.
  • Foster a cat or a dog. As the U.S. economy tanked, family pets got dumped by the 1000s. Rescue groups are running out of space and resources. Foster families are a critical part of saving these animals' lives. Call a local rescue group today. Save a life. Be one of the good guys.
  • Educate yourself and others. What programs exist in your community to assist pet owners? A great example? The Richmond SPCA is all about helping people keep their pets and keeping those pets healthy.
  • Adopt a rescue dog or cat rather than buying from a breeder.
  • Spay and neuter your animals. There are way more dogs and cats than there are loving homes. Be part of the solution not part of the problem.
  • Volunteer! Give a bit of your time to animals. Volunteer at a shelter, transport animals for a rescue group, or create a fundraiser for a local animal welfare group. Do you absolutely adore one particular dog breed? Find your closest breed-specific rescue group and offer your time and talent to them.
  • Think creatively. Help the animals in any way your can.
  • Be a hero.

Here are four of my heroes followed by a tribute to one dog ... and all dogs:

Luke Robinson & The Boys at 2 Dogs 2000 Miles
Maria Daines at One Life Rescue
Tamira Ci Thayne at Dogs Deserve Better
Everyone at Pilots N Paws


Near this spot Are deposited the Remains
Of one Who Possessed Beauty
Without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferocity,
And all the Virtues of Man
Without his Vices.
This Praise, which would be unmeaning flattery
If inscribed over Human Ashes,
Is but a just tribute to the
Memory of "Boatswain," a Dog
Who was born at Newfoundland,
May, 1803,
And died at Newstead Abbey
Nov. 18, 1808.

Lord Byron