On this #NationalTherapyAnimalDay , I couldn’t help but give a shout out to an incredible, loving, and beautiful addition to the profession! This is Miss Sugar’s first year as a therapy dog, and by all accounts from the people she visits she’s exceeding all expectations!!! She never ceases to amaze me at every turn and it’s so fun watching how people fall in love with her, which doesn’t surprise me one bit!
Below are some of the beautiful pictures students from two of her classrooms she visits weekly drew and the stories they wrote about her, which melted my heart:). Watching the difference in the kids as soon as she enters the room is magical! Their teacher said that it’s difficult to get them interested in writing, but writing about Sugar is a whole different story!
Sugar brought in bookmarks this month for kids to remind them how important it is to read and last month she gave them trading cards with her photo on it! The kids (and adults!) in the school seem to really enjoy her visits each week, and Sugar starts whining when we pull into the parking lot. I think she is just as happy to get in and see them!!!!
Then, when she makes her rounds at her independent living, assisted living and memory care facilities around the cities, I am once again blown away by how she is able to draw them out in one way or another. Staff members try to warn me that a person is “non-verbal”, but to Sugar this information is meaningless; she approaches and gently does a “visit” on their lap and all of a sudden words form and come out of their mouth about a dog they had growing up, a dog’s name from their past, or a phrase like “good dog”. Some staff will go and get a camera to take a picture so they can tell the family members about it later. Although it’s only a brief conversation, it still drives home the point that positive triggers for those enduring medical and memory issues can and DOES make a difference!! Sugar then goes over to a gentleman with memory loss and hearing issues, but if I quietly engage him for a few minutes the frustrating memory lapse he is fighting dissipates, his hearing recalibrates, and then he tells me about being a PHD professor at the U of M for 40 years in Animal Science! Shortly after, he starts asking me questions about why dogs do certain things (why do dogs pant? Why do they have eyelashes? Why do their paw pads sweat-what does that mean?), and it all of a sudden dawns on me that he isn’t asking because he doesn’t know-rather he is looking for an opportunity to share his expertise that he has spent a lifetime learning with me-he wants to teach me like he has spent his life teaching others, and those memories are so deeply embedded that it doesn’t take long for them to rise to the top. Next month we will start all over again, and I will watch the same “reawakening” happen and we will start with the same conversation. And yet, I will be just as amazed by the light in their eyes, the slight interactions that tell me they understand, and the gentleness with which Sugar interacts with them.
This is her current job-and I’ve never met a more capable dog in bringing joy, love and life to those she takes pleasure in serving!