Monday, December 13, 2010

Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs

Wyatt, my oldest GSD has always had the greatest temperament of a dog. I define this by his innate ability to use his nose to recognize injuries, pain, cuts, or anything unusual in a body.... be it a dog or human.

One of the first instances I realized his ability to do this was when he was about 1 years old and we were pet sitting a senior greyhound at home. Wyatt would circle her as she lay on her bed, and sniff her while giving her her space, and then lay right in front of her, not moving until the day she was picked up.

The owner of the dog was completely unaware of any medical issues with this dog, aside from the typical old age kind of things. A couple weeks after her stay, the dog broke her front leg while going up the stairs. At this time, the vets were able to detect that she was suffering from Bone Cancer, and that it was all over her body, deteriorating all her bones rapidly.

Wyatt must have smelled this as he was adamant about not letting her get up without his presence around her.

Wyatt is so keen for smelling wounds, bruises, injuries, blood, cuts, open sores etc on people, he always seems to detect them and be so gentle about smelling. It is amazing, he will never lick the injury itself, but he will lick another part of your body, especially your face after he has detected the injury.

He seems to be so aware of each person individually when visiting therapeutic settings. Recently we were invited to visit a class of children with Mental and Physical handicaps at East River High School in Orlando. The children in the class were of various disabilities. He is awesome with kids, especially when being pulled and tugged and grabbed and hugged all at the same time. This tough acting dog, is quite a softy when it comes to people.

There was a child about 16 years of age, who was totally blind in both eyes. Wyatt appeared to recognize that as he stretched towards his face wanting to sniff his eyes. The child loved him! He asked to take him on a walk by himself. We stepped back and allowed him to walk Wyatt around an open field, he turned the corners using his stick, which also Wyatt responded to and turned with him.

Many ask what type of training Wyatt has been to, and all those who are frequent readers of my blog understand temperament training vs. obedience training and the difference between training a dog with the right temperament for the right purpose.

Let us make a quick detour on AAT Dogs for a moment. If you know what you want your dog to do for the rest of its life, it you understand its purpose in your lifestyle whether it be a companion dog, working dog of some sort, or performance dog, you can choose the right dog that would fit this purpose.

However, most of us of course choose our dogs based on appearance. Me included. I found Wyatt on years ago, and fell in love with him. Something about him just struck me like lightening. I drove to Tampa, with my friend Kelly to get him. When we saw him in person, I was amazed by his temperament, demeanor, and presence... he was only 4-6 months old.

I brought him home, and he was the easiest dog to house break. I don't think I have ever crated him, although he is crate-able.
He was raised off leash from day one, despite rules and regulations... my rule was he was a dog, and he was doing to have the freedom to explore and learn and walk off leash.

He was raised by being allowed to be a dog 95% of the time, trusting of his own 6 senses (I believe dogs have a sixth sense), and I tried to avoid the other 5% of the times he would have to be restricted as much as possible.
He was the perfect dog and from a young age he was so noble, wise, sensitive, respectful and never pushy.... he was a different kind of dog, but a real dog in all sense dog! He meant business, strongly felt against pushy, demanding dogs especially puppies, but on the other end of the spectrum he was so tolerant of them with bones, toys, and anything material. His tolerance of such dogs is his only down fall (more on this at a later time)... and he is allowed it.

His training was, he initiated wanting to go greet and or explore, I followed. He learned to be gentle on his own, there was no need to be force full in his mind, he won all his games with out it. So, to answer that question, he really never went through any form of training more so his lifestyle was such that fostered intuition.

So back to our visit to Homestead... we went to visit my grand father. He was admitted into the hospital after having a heart attack, just a couple days before Thanksgiving. While he recovered from this surgery off all sorts, part of his recovery included very simple movements of his hands and feet.

The staff at Baptist Hospital in Miami were just incredible. They did not hesitate at all in allowing Waytt to come visit... granted he is registered by the Delta Society...

He did do it, but minimally. He also was so exhausted but could not sleep due to the discomfort of the bed and the pain combination.... plus the 101 other interruptions.

We walked into the room, and Wyatt immediately recognized a familiar smell. He walked around the bed sniffing from head to toe. My grandfather was so happy to see him, he extended his arm off the bed reaching for Wyatt's head. He asked if Wyatt could get up on the bed with him, and he shuffled himself to make room.... prior to that we could not even get him to move his feet!

Here they are snoozing together and the first four hour nap my grandfather took in about 14 days.

This was his first AAT at a hospital, and he did awesome! He appeared to have loved it himself, and I know my grandfather surely did.

Dog Responsibly

No comments: