Earlier this year I received an urgent call for therapy dogs to visit an elementary school.
This request was unique because the therapy animal program I manage was created to share tail wagging happiness with care team members…
patients, family members…
and on occasion I accept invitations to venture out into the community. But those are generally recreational events like baseball games…
or bus rides to a holiday parade…
This call was different, this one was urgent, this one brought me to my knees.
THERE ARE NO WORDS –
When someone tells you about the sudden passing of a young child, there are no words of comfort that seem appropriate to me.
As I listened and as the words rang in my ears, I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. I quietly prayed that I had misunderstood.
As the teacher spoke, the details of –
- what happened
– were irrelevant. A nine year old child was never going back to school again and classmates were suffering, struggling – trying to comprehend it all.
The teachers, also grieving – silently – as they tried to comfort their students, were searching for help. On site counselors made themselves available, but for many of the children, articulating emotions when dealing with loss can stifle verbal communication.
Can you bring some therapy dogs to the school?
That’s what she asked me. And without hesitation or reservation – my answer was a soft whisper –
PROVIDING COMFORT –
It’s important to know – ALL dogs can provide comfort to humans who are grieving, or suffering from depression. However, therapy dogs are generally trained and accustomed to the task required when it comes to strangers.
Therapy dogs allow those grieving to receive some comfort and relieve their stress and anxiety for a bit. This is especially true for grieving children who may not be comfortable talking about their feelings with adults. Therapy dogs give them someone to talk to and comfort them during an emotional and confusing time.
To adequately cover multiple classrooms, I calculated a need of at least a dozen teams. The response to my email was overwhelming and by COB I had a list of thirteen!
That evening, Jaxson and I counted out 100 hand sanitizing pens for each student…
CANINE THERAPISTS –
At work I affectionally refer to the human component of each therapy team as Uber Drivers and I call the real superstars – Canine Therapists!
Why? Because the handler does the driving – the dog does the work!
Meet some of the sweetest Uber Drivers and Canine Therapists on the planet…
The students were elated to see the dogs and Jax was a pawfectionist at his J.O.B…
Collecting his trading cards kept everyone giggling as they compared his stats on the back…
I received a great deal of smiles and winks from the teachers as they pressed the palms of their hands over their hearts letting me know how much they appreciated the dogs presence.
As Jax and I rode back to work, the word bittersweet popped into my mind, I now have a personal relationship with its meaning –
an emotional feeling that is a mixture of both happy and sad.
While I always adore watching children interact with Jax (and all the therapy dogs), that day as I smiled I remembered what brought us to the school and my heart felt weighted.
As we entered the hospital, the word I decided which best described my morning was gratitude. I was grateful to be a part of an experience that created a positive memory with those children. One hopefully, they can replay in their minds over and over again as needed to get through the long days ahead.
The best therapists have fur and four legs ❤️