Saturday, November 27, 2010

I Believe in Animal Assisted Therapy

It is a good thing I do, as well, since I have dedicated my life to it. I have been going on about the wonders of the horse and how it has been helping me cope with my illness, but it is not the only thing. All along, all of my animals have added so much to the quality of my life since I was a youngster. I always feel happy and fulfilled when in the company of animals. The responsibility you feel taking care of them, learning their psychology and how they think, their unselfish love that never ends, no matter how you feel; all in all they just bring a smile to your face and make you happy, besides all of the other benefits like companionship and stress relief. I was just telling my cousin, Lucia, how much I have been enjoying the full moon and wonderful warm nights because we have a new puppy and he needs to go out several times a night, so as not to have an accident in the house. He is a six week old Briard, and already wakes me to let me know when he wants to go out, he has figured out when the lights go out it is bed-time and only a few more minutes of play are acceptable. He is so expressive and seems to be able to communicate his every desire. Besides being my friend and companion, that makes me go outside to enjoy the world, I plan on teaching him to be a hearing dog for me. As soon as he has had all of his vaccines, I will start taking him everywhere, so that he can get socialized and learn to behave in public places. Even though hearing dogs don’t exist in Spain, I have trained them before and also have a license for him to be able to accompany me to restaurants and other public places during his training phase. Once he is trained, he should have all of the rights awarded to Seeing Eye dogs and other assistance dogs. I am very lucky because in the village where I live, the people are used to me bringing animals places, for training, so that they can make a difference in someone’s life. This puppy has already made a big difference in my life and I hope we will be able to have a long and bonding relationship with each other. His name is Raven and he is black with a little white tuft on his chest. Each dog has its own qualities and abilities. Once you figure out what they are then you can encourage these traits to help them become valuable assistance dogs. I wanted to train my Bearded Collie, Wilber, to be a hearing dog but he had no interest in sounds but in the end his strong point was working with people in wheelchairs and being able to pick things up, take things out of the fridge, he never did learn how to shut the refrigerator though. Also, he would know the names and be able to distinguish between groups of many objects - unless his ball was included in the group, when he’d go straight there. He could push the button to call the elevator and pick up the telephone receiver to give to you when it rang. He was at my side everywhere I went and had a tremendous vocabulary both spoken and in sign language, even though he never became a hearing dog.
Raven is only six weeks old, but already he shows a lot of promise and seems to be very bright. It is too early to start any type of formal training but they can learn so much if you talk to them and use the same words over. They learn through play at this stage because their attention span is short but it all goes into the making of a great dog later in life. It takes a lot of patience and time. You have to be able to dedicate your time to repeat and go over things they know while at the same time keep introducing new words and activities to their lives. By the time he is six months and ready for obedience training it should be relatively easy because he will already know and have practiced the basics. I will just have to wait and see where his strong points are as he grows up, it is no good trying to force them to learn something that they just aren’t good at or like. An assistance dog must be happy at his work and do it out of pleasure and love. Assistance dogs are very well adjusted and used to a change in environment while enjoying the constant companionship, that most family dogs miss out on because they usually have to stay at home, which is also a very important job. Every day now, Raven is surprising me with just how fast he catches on to things and finds his way around. He seems to remember from one day to the next, where things came from and where we go, he is also becoming a little more independent, being able to entertain himself for short periods because he knows where to find us. It rained last night and after his first quick trip out he decided to sleep through the night instead of going out again. I just love this little puppy.

These posters were made by Viv Snailham, a volunteer, supporter and great friend. Sadly, she has passed on and is, no doubt, leading programs for dogs and horses Elsewhere.

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