Training my Chihuahua, Adriel, to be a Therapy Dog was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I got the idea from watching the move “Chihuahua: The Movie.” The plot showcased a Chihuahua that was a Therapy Dog who visited patients in a local hospital. While the rest of the film was horrible (hokey plot, poor acting), I kept wondering if there really was such a thing as a Therapy Dog.
I soon took to the Internet and discovered Therapy Dogs International. They are the oldest organization that specializes in training and certifying Therapy Dogs. The website (www.tdi-dog.org) was filled with information as well as a list of all the things your dog must know before taking the test. A test? For a dog? As I scanned the list, I became worried. Adriel is the most laid back dog that you will ever meet. She seriously does not have a care in the world. This one-of-a-kind temperament is what made me want to make her a Therapy Dog in the first place.
After weeks of working with her on “Sit, stay, come,” she was ready for her test. The test lasted for two hours and consisted of leaving her alone with other people to see if she would suffer from separation anxiety, socializing her with the other testing dogs, seeing how she reacted to loud noises and wheelchairs, etc. Soon, she not only received her Therapy Dog certification, but her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certificate as well. I couldn’t have been more proud of her. And that is where the fun began.
Adriel and I were soon visiting all kinds of places: kids’ clubs, hospice patients, autism centers. And we met some of the most amazing people. We recently became members of our local hospital’s auxiliary group and are now the second Therapy Dog/handler team in the organization. We loving bringing joy and smiles to others. And I will admit, Adriel is an attention diva and just soaks up every touch.
This got me wondering why more people have not trained their dogs to become Therapy Dogs. The opportunity to share Adriel and her wonderful personality with others is such a rewarding experience. Also, knowing that I am helping others simply by letting them pet my dog fills my heart with happiness. The training is not difficult and if your dog has ever been to an obedience class, he/she should have no problem at all in passing the test.
TDI is always on the lookout for new members and groups in the area are thrilled to have a Therapy Dog in their midst. You would be surprised at the magic of a smile and a wet nose.