I tend to be antisocial by nature.
Ironically, my four dogs actually force me to interact with people more than I would otherwise. (Training classes, socialization outings, vet appointments, dog walks, pet store visits, and so on) So this past Tuesday, saddled with a raging head and chest cold and a supreme desire to hide on the couch under a blanket and watch the Sugar Bowl, the last thing I wanted to do was go visit a bunch of strangers at the hospital as part of my volunteer therapy dog work. But I knew that leaving a handful of disappointed people with chronic headaches in the lurch while passing up an opportunity to get one of my many dogs out for some exercise probably wasn’t the best way to start off the new year, so I went.
And I was once again reminded that the seemingly insignificant and brief encounters with random people at unexpected times can be the only ones that really matter. Sure, Peaches wasn’t perfect training-wise (she dragged me into the lobby like she was pulling a cart and climbed up onto multiple people and licked them the minute we got to the visiting room–oops). But in addition to those things, the following also happened:
- Two different patients who met Peaches last week were there again and shrieked, “Peaches is back!” with the utmost glee the minute we walked in.—Reason #1 for doing therapy dog work: Make people happy and give them a reason to smile. CHECK.
- One woman who clearly had just had a tough night came back into the lounge and sat down on the floor with her head in her hands as though the whole world hurt at that moment. Peaches crept over to her and just stood right in front of her with her signature move–the craned neck–and leaned into her until the patient glanced up and just wrapped her arms around her and rubbed her face against her neck.—Reason #2 for doing therapy dog work: Help sick/struggling people feel better. CHECK.
- One patient asked if Peaches did sleepovers and could he take her home.—Reason #3 for doing therapy dog work: Watch other people fall in love with my dog like I did. CHECK.
- And last but not least: A new patient who was there with her husband spent most of the evening asking me all kinds of questions about Peaches, about dogs, and commenting on how wonderful Peaches was. And right before we left, she said in her sincerest tone possible: “Well she’s completely changed my opinion of pit bulls.” Reason #4 for doing therapy dog work: It only takes one dog to change a person’s mind. And it only takes one changed mind to make a difference. CHECK.
And to think, I almost stayed home with a bottle of cough syrup and a football game.