Friday, March 13, 2009

Good Therapy

Sam I Am went to the women's shelter. The weather was rude - sleet, snain, freezing cold - but our visiting room was warm.

I would love to tell you about each visit in minute detail, but of course I can't. But I can share some of the absolute, unqualified miracles performed by one little therapy dog.

We haven't visited in a while. Sam doesn't like visiting the hospital so much, and I've decided to stop going there with him. I think it's just too much for his sensitive self. He's not afraid, he's sad. Sam is so attuned to human worry, pain, fear; I think he is bombarded with too much sickness at the hospital.

So I was relieved to see him wag like crazy when we got out of the van at the shelter and pull me to the visiting room. He jumped around doing the "I'm too sexy for my coat" dance and said hey to the staff member.

And then, when his client came in, he sat facing her on the blankets on the floor and devoted himself to her for the next forty-five minutes. He smiled at her, over an over, because she was so thrilled when he did. He kissed her, Sammy style (nose dabs). Sammy smiles and kisses are rare indeed, but he did both repeatedly. When she said something from her heart, he stared right into her eyes, his own eyes huge and deep.

a rare Sammy smile
I pretty much stay out of the interaction. I will offer a few words. "Dogs don't judge." "Dogs understand feelings, spoken or secret, in a way we humans simply can't." "He likes you."

I watched Sam engage this client. She needed reassurance that she mattered to the dog, and over and over and over, Sam offered a paw, a smile, a kiss, saying as loud as he could, "You MATTER to me!" He did his tricks. He sat, he downed, he play-bowed, he wagged. He bowed his head into her chest and closed his eyes.

By the end of the session, she believed him. Softly she said, "I think you really like me."

I took him outside for a quick pee, just for a break, really. He pulled me right past the van, back to the visiting room to meet his next client.

I watched my little dog transform.

This client was different. She was weeping softly as she sat on the blankets. Sam looked at her. He looked at me for assurance. Good boy. You're fine. You're a good dog, Sammy. He completely changed his manner, his posture, his dialog, his shape. He quietly curled up next to her. Her hand never stopped stroking him - not once in the next forty-five minutes. He lay quietly, perfectly still, his head resting on her thigh, his eyes not leaving hers. She softly spoke of mistakes made. Dogs don't judge. Of not being able to express herself. Dogs understand feelings, spoken or secret, in a way we humans simply can't. Of feeling unlikable. He likes you - just look at his eyes.

I would have sworn I was watching two different dogs.

Sam - and the whole waggle - got hamburger for dinner.

And my reward? Hearing a woman say, "You know, I feel so much better now. He has really made a difference. I know I'm going to be all right."

hug your hounds


  1. I had a battered woman as a client once. I wish she had Sammy. It is so hard being human, and flawed, and not ever enough for someone else. We can recognize the need, but we can't help, at least, not the way that a dog can.

  2. Reading that really makes my day. Well Done Sammy!


  3. Mine are not calm enough to ever be therapy dogs in the pure sense but they are therapy for me.

    Way to go, Sam! How can anyone ever believe that dogs do not think or have feelings? You have shown how deep your compassion is for others.

    Mary, servant to Dachsies Rule

  4. What a wonderful dog...and handsome too.

  5. Sam seems so special. And what a wonderful outing for both of you! I've often thought of getting my dog certified to help others, but I don't know how beagles would react in those type situations. I'll have to read some of your stories - you write your blog very well. --Cheryl

  6. What wonderful work you and Sammy are doing! You and your boy are really help to make a difference.

  7. gordy and georgieMarch 13, 2009 at 4:53 PM

    Oh how wonderful! Yesterday a friend came over. She had just taken one elderly cat to be euthanized and the other elderly cat was to go there today. She wasn't crying but Gordy and Georgie really picked up on her emotions and were constantly running up to get pet and gave her tons of kisses, leaning against her. They have never paid so much attention to her before. Dogs are so intuitive!

  8. Reason 1 million why I love dogs..Love PL2

  9. Great post! Aren't dogs just wonderful beings?! Good on ya for the work you and Sam I Am do. You should be proud!

  10. Oh Sam, I am just so proud of the work you do. I think in a year or so, I will try to get trained and help people who feel bad.

    Us dogs are just plain good at that.


  11. Good Dog SamIAm..Good Dog!

    thanks for sharing the stories with us

    gussie n teka

  12. This post made me cry happy tears.

  13. I love your dogs!

  14. I wonder if our local women's shelter has therapy dog sessions? I would love to do this with Madison. She is the lover and protector type ... we are working so that one day she might bring some comfort to others. What a sweet story. Dogs just know, don't they?

  15. You've got mom all teary-eyed, Sam! You're a good boy! We're proud of you!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  16. Martha abd P-DoggyMarch 14, 2009 at 10:00 AM

    Well,first we laughed-"snain"-you are too funny,P! and then Sammy made us SO PROUD we cried (well,martha cried,p-doggy "ah-woo'd") Glad to see this post-we were worried,esp "bout VOD!

  17. There is nothing like the love of a dog. I am in awe of them daily.

  18. What a wonderful post and what a WONDERFUL dog!!

  19. I feel like getting on the next plane over to meet this wonderful boy! Oh I do love him.

  20. What a tender and special post. All dogs I've known have been eager to comfort and cheer, and Sam seems to be specially blessed. Lucky ladies, lucky us that you share such beauty here.

  21. Wow--that is a really great way to use a therapy dog. Sam is a really special guy. I am so glad he could offer a little sunshine.

    wally t.

  22. hugs to you, patience. hugs to you for taking the time to share your sam with these women.
    thank you!

  23. I also have a therapy dog called Archie.
    Archie says great work Sam. People need dogs like us.

    Archie - therapy dog to dementia patients.

  24. Truly a magnificent post. I'm just in awe of your writing, and Sam I am, of course.

  25. I had come out of an abusive marriage when my brother got Deacon as a small puppy. I had never been a dog person before but that little whippet puppy changed my life. He did all those things and more for me during the Friday afternoons he and I spent together weekly. Some whippets seem so able to heal our human psychological wounds much better than any other person can. Bless you and Sam for sharing that love with those that need it so much.


  26. oh well done Sam......

    Marvin actually qualified to do Pet Therapy, he went through all the tests, but sadly it was me who "chickened" out.

    The places we were assigned were mainly retirement homes, visiting lonely and aged people. Having not long lost my Dad who was in such a home, and visiting him regularly, I did not feel up to starting up all over again.

    Too many memories if you like, and not always good ones. He wanted to be "home" so much, and it was three whole years of traumatic ups and downs. Because he was not able to come home through various problems.

    I took a break from Dog Therapy, as was advised by the D.T. Charity, until I felt able to begin again.

    So Marvin passed with flying colours, it was me, the human, who flunked it.

    Dogs are just such amazing creatures.

    love Jeannie xxxxxxx

  27. oh my, i can imagine a gentle whippet with someone who has had a tough time at the hands of another. they are so soft and sleek and sensitive. well done patience, for helping people who are broken to mend themselves.

  28. I can not tell you just how special it was to read that post. What a great dog. What am I saying? All dogs are great!

    Good job Sam!

  29. I saw where you joined as a follower of my blog. Are these rescue dogs? They are beautiful.

    We lost our Yellow Lab a few years ago. She was 13, and she was like our child. We decided not to get another dog for awhile, because, though retired, we are both busy with extra jobs. Seems like we have less time now. Not sure quite how that works.

    We do have five house cats who keep us busy.

    Thanks for a nice post.

    As a photographer, I enjoyed your photos.

  30. that made my mommy's eyes drip. such a beautiful story.

    Tail Wiggles & Puppy Kisses,

    Coco - The Princess


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