The Sweetest Pet Therapist
Sometimes the best counselor has a tail and floppy ears
Pet therapy is a great thing for the world and for the people who live in it.
During my years as a professional pet sitter, I met many dogs and but had the privilege of pet sitting for a little dog, who was a pet therapist.
I won't go into details, but the dog you see in this photo had a rough start to life. It seems to me that it was a miracle that he even survived his puppyhood.
His name is Milo. In this photo, he was quite old, but his heart was ever new and young and full of love for everyone. He was a bundle of gentleness and love right up to the end of his life.
When I first met Milo he had lots of anxiety and issues. He had been adopted by a fantastic family who gave him lots of love and care. In return, Milo took the love and care he felt from his adoptive family, added it to his already big heart, and shared it with his corner of the world.
I had the opportunity to see Milo, or "Mr. Milo" as I would sometimes call him, in action as a pet therapy dog.
After some time of living with his loving family, they enrolled him in a local pet therapy training program and he got himself "certified" to be a pet therapy dog. It helped him gain some confidence and seemed to unleash (no dog pun intended) a vocation for his furry little self.
At the time, in addition to running my pet sitting business, I was also working with children who lived in a facility for those who had been abused, neglected, or faced severe family hardship. These kids, most of them, were severely traumatized in one way or another and were already enrolled in various therapies to help them heal.
No therapy, however, showed such immediate results for these children, as a little pet therapy. Talk about moving from intense sadness and depression to joyful faces, giggles, and a total distraction from their current struggling little lives!
How did this happen? Well, it was a natural connection because I already knew Milo's family through pet sitting, and I was working with the kids, so together we combined efforts. Milo needed some clients to serve and the kids needed a new form of therapy!
What did Milo do to provoke such quick positive change in these children? Basically, he just showed up, wagged his tail, showed a little love, did some tricks, and their hearts opened up and the childhood joy they were born to have emerged from the depths of their souls.
What did the children like the most? They got such giggles and wonder out of watching Milo drink water! For some reason, they loved to see the water splash, loved to hear the sound of his tongue lapping up the water, and loved his little tail wagging at the end of him.
We'd have the children sit in a circle on the floor. Milo was a small dog so this way they were all at the same level. He made his way around the circle giving each child attention. Even though he had quite a few hands petting him he was as calm as a cucumber and as happy as a lark! Some kids would hold his leash and walk him around.
When Milo walked into the unit, the atmosphere immediately became joyful and animated.
Milo knew what each child needed. It was just "in him". There were times he'd give more attention to a particular child. I remember one little girl, about six years old. Blond hair. Blue eyes. She had a terrible life history up to that point and was in need of much healing. Milo went right up to her, seemed to ignore the other children for a few moments, and licked that little girl's face all over! She just sat there, eyes and mouth tightly closed, but with a huge smile on her face and she just soaked up Milo's attention.
There were some children who were afraid of Milo - of any dog - but his gentleness would soon win them over. Sometimes it might take a couple of visits, but he'd seem to win them over somehow. He was very respectful of the children and knew intuitively how to reach out to them.
As with any therapy, it is important that the counselor be "present" with their client and that they create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Milo did that paws down! When people saw his happy face, welcoming demeanor, and gentleness, they couldn't help but want to reach out and pet him.
Depending on the group of kids and the age range, Milo's humans would sometimes share Milo's early life experiences, which were similar to many of their own - abandonment, neglect, and abuse - and so they connected to Milo very quickly. I remember once that one little boy blurted out - after hearing Milo's story - "That's like what happened to me."
Milo has since crossed the Rainbows Bridge and I know that someday I will see him again, along with all my other furry friends I've gotten to know throughout the years.
If you are a dog owner and feel like your dog has the qualities to be a therapy dog, by all means, reach out and do a little research. Find a training program in your area, get your dog certified, and start making the world a better place.
In some way, I believe that all pets are natural therapy pets, but some who are specially trained like Milo, take it to the next level. Thanks to his loving human family, together they made a difference in the lives of so many.
Milo's life started out in a negative place, but God writes straight with crooked lines, and in Milo's little life, He acted in a big, yet, also little, way. He took a furry creature who was wounded and made him a wounded healer. He took a little white fluffball of a dog with all sorts of anxieties and made him a stronghold for children and just about everyone he met.
I leave you with this question. Just as Milo used his gentle canine gifts to improve his little corner of the world, how can you improve your corner of the world? Do you have a pet that can provide therapy to others? Are YOU someone who, with your gifts and talents, can change the world in some other way? You may not be fluffy and furry ( but you might be too, and if you are - run with it!) but you do have talents that you can share with the world.
Pet therapy changes hearts. Heals hearts. Softens the hardened hearts. Teaches hearts to love. Pet therapy is furry and gentle and joyful.
Pass the word!