So, I started school this week, and I'm pretty sure I'll be graduating at the top of my class in six weeks.
What class, you ask? That would be Therapy Dogs International certification classes taught by trainer Jeanne Brummond. When those of us who make the cut graduate, we will be certified, along with our people, to visit nursing homes, hospitals, Hospice, schools, etc. to offer comfort the way only dogs can.
My people think I'm a natural because of my gentle demeanor and my soulful, human eyes. I can't say I disagree. I'll note that at the first class I was the only one of the seven dogs there comfortable enough in my own fur not to strain on my lead, bark or growl.
My classmates include golden retrievers, an Australian shepherd, a black Labrador and a collie. Turns out we healers come in all shapes and sizes.
That first night we worked on heeling, stopping to sit, turning around, sitting for petting, reacting to another dog and meeting a stranger. In all there are 13 criteria that we will be tested on individually, including staying in a down while separated from our person for three minutes, mingling with children, reacting to medical equipment and being exposed to folks with noticeable infirmities.
I'm not worried about any of these. The one test that's got all of us beasts a little concerned is Test 11: Leave It. In this test of our training and will power our person has to walk us on a loose leash directly over a doughnut lying on the floor. No, I'm not making that up. Harsh, isn't it?
I plan to eat all my kibble before the final exam so I'm not too tempted to scarf up that delicacy. The idea behind such a test is that we therapy dogs (We get a picture ID badge and a kercheif once we are certified!) will be in settings where any number of things could fall on the floor: food, pills, other medications and God knows what. We need to be able to walk by and "leave it" without even a sniff.
I'm sure if I steel myself for that moment I can do it. I just hope it's an icky jelly doughnut and not one of those round lovelies covered in icing and sprinkles…