Rio, an almost Therapy Dog!
It took a few trips to Ohio but once I get his paperwork signed by his vet, have them run a fecal exam, and send in the paperwork, Rio will officially be a Therapy Dog! I am so excited!
Our last visitation was pretty fantastic. We visited a rehabilitation/retirement home with a group of other prospective therapy dogs at various stages of their journey. It was a Saturday afternoon and the facility was not terribly busy or full (apparently lots of the residents go out on Saturday afternoons with family or on trips with the facility). Since there weren’t lots of people to visit, the dogs went back for their official supervised visits in small groups which meant some of the dogs had to hang out for a while for their turn.
Rio was a superstar waiting for his turn in the community room–he was calm, settled, wasn’t whining much, and was focusing on me beautifully. We practiced his new “relax” behavior where he either flops completely on his side or he flips onto a hip while in a down position. He’s not truly relaxed but he’s stationary! While waiting he did get a chance to greet a few employees and he did so wonderfully and definitely got some smiles! After about 15 minutes, a few residents made their way out to the recreation area to see the dogs that were waiting their turn to be observed. Rio greeted 3 different residents, one in a wheel chair, one using a walker (with oxygen tank in tow), and one who walked independently but was seated in a chair. He got close to all of them (without climbing in their lap, if applicable) and let each of them pet him but he had a particular fondness for one of the men he greeted.
He kept snuggling for this guy for well over 5 minutes. At one point the old gentleman started to sing to Rio–it was crazy cute. The song was some old-time tune that I was not familiar with but he was just sweet as pie. He did, at one point, grab both sides of Rio’s face and bring his face close to Rio’s–while restraining Rio’s head–I was super proud that Rio just put his nose up and sniffed the man’s face as he sang. It would have made for a CRAZY cute picture (though slightly worrisome as a handler). Rio kept pushing his head under the guy’s hands if he stopped petting and the man just loved it. He kept saying things like, “If humans only had a little more niceness like dogs it would be a better thing” and “If people could be a little more kind and tender like dogs it would be good.” He even said, “I can tell, he has extra niceness. Nothing against the other dogs, but he’s got extra.” –all together now, “Awwww!”
It took a little while longer but we were eventually called back for our observation. After all the cuddling in the hall Rio was not as “pet me!” as he was in the hall (but the woman was not quite as eager to pet either) but he did some tricks and did get close for her to pet him for a few minutes before we parted ways. The woman was super sweet–wanted to make sure that he lived inside and she said that there were dogs at her rehabilitation exercises last week and it made it so much easier to follow through! By the end of the day, Rio was absolutely DONE (though he was ready to run, his brain was done).
I am still trying to think about where will be a good fit for Rio to be the best therapy dog he can be… but we’ll be calling a few places once it’s all official and I can’t wait. I’m sure we’ll visit retirement homes occasionally but I’m not sure it’s where he will excel. I think he would excel working with kids or perhaps at dentist/doctors offices (I know I would be way less worried going to the dentist if I could snuggle a puppy in the waiting room!). Time will tell and we’ll see where it goes but I’m so proud of him!