Sunday, February 7, 2010

Therapy Dog Team Diana and Boomer

Boomer began training to do therapy work when he was six months old. He came to my family from Shetland Sheepdog breeder who was planning to show him in the ring. But he grew too big and became available as a companion. He is my second sheltie, my sweet Murphy was the first. Having spent several months in the hospital in 2000 and not having therapy dog visits available at that time, I longed to see Murphy. He was so gentle and loving, everyone loved him that met him. I promised myself when I was better I would train my dog Murphy and visit others who were in the hospital. Murphy however, passed on later that year with a brain tumor and I was so grief-stricken I waited a while for Boomer.

I began training with a puppy positive reinforcement class taught by Michelle McCarthy of K9 Home Schooling. Using treats and a clicker, I began the training to develop Boomer into a therapy dog. Michelle also did a few home visits with my family present, to make sure we were all being consistent with Boomer in the home too. While that was going along well, more training for a young dog is to expose him to as many different situations as possible. I took him to Timber Town and walked him in some tight spaces with kids running and yelling around us. We went into church and had use of practicing going in and out of an elevator. We went to the banks, pharmacy, wait outside of school at the end of the day, and any place that would allow him in. He was developing into a great dog to take out his obedience was to me was always 100%. When he turned a year old, my husband and I adopted a daughter and Boomer's days out were less and less for the next two years.

Then in 2008 I took a therapy dog training class taught by Michelle who is also a therapy dog tester. After graduation the class we had to be tested twice more in the hospital on visits. Boomer did great! Since then we did visiting at the Head Pain clinic at Chelsea Hospital. The patients are there for a short stay but come from as far away as Scotland. Many of them have pets and greatly appreciate the petting and calmness Boomer brings with him. You can see people relax and their focus shifts from their chronic pain to a beautiful dog with soulful eyes, breathing steady and hoping for a pat or two. Shelties are known to be sensitive to people and I have witnessed him soothing people when I did not realize the depths of their pain. It is amazing!

Boomer also loves children and we are involved with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs, or R.E.A.D. program at our Chelsea Library. Children sign up for 10 minutes sessions to read by themselves, aloud to Boomer. Children who participate have shown a gain in confidence in reading and have improved test scores. They also receive a free book on their third visit.

Therapy work with Boomer is extremely rewarding for me and Boomer too. He gets so excited when I put that vest on him! If you see us out, stop and say Hi

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