Before the Pandemic hit the US, I had been working, officially training to be a therapy dog, at the age of 5 and 1/2 months. I was also taking training classes, and passed the Canine Good Citizen Test at 10 months of age. I worked at three assisted living centers and one elementary school, anywhere from four to five days a week, one to three hours a day. I was a VERY active, BUSY boy, until the end of February when the Pandemic hit our country and our area.
To go from being SO busy, seeing and interacting with children and senior adults almost daily, being touched and rubbed on, and in many cases at the school, laid on top of, to absolutely nothing outside of my home, was depressing. When mom would get dressed and leave the bathroom, I’d run to where my leash was, I was ready to go! Only to be told, “No Charlie, I’m sorry Buddy, we aren’t going today. After several weeks, I stopped running to get my leash. I pretty much just laid with my head between my paws.
My mom did all she could to help me. She recognized the signs of depression, and yes, dogs can be depressed. We took more walks, played more games, trained more which of course included treatos, which was a nice help. She even looked back at photos and videos of how the kids would love on me, and she tried to replicate that. The first time she did, I sort of purred like a cat. That was mom’s confirmation of HOW much I missed my friends.
My next door neighbor, Pastor Asa, who had recently lost his wife of many years, would come out on his porch, and love on me, take me for walks. I guess you could say we were therapy for one another. They say I am very soft to the touch, and he would love on me, and talk to me, hug on me, and even jump around with me like a kid. It helped a lot. It was the little extra beside the love I got at home that made the difference.
Fast forward four months, and the call finally came from one assisted living center, The Retreat at Jasper, with an invitation to come back and visit. However, it would have to be different. We would have to meet outside, and mom and dad would have to wear masks. Well, they were thrilled, and back to work I went.
When we got there, mom and dad had their temperatures taken. I’m glad they didn’t want to take mine! I am not a fan of that! Then we drove around to the back. It was a nice covered patio and there was a breeze, and you could see the mountains in the background. There were nice, comfy chairs for the residents to use. Only two came out the first time, but I was SO glad to see them. They were pleased that I remembered them. I was pleased they remembered me! It had been so long since I’d seen them. Mom let them give me treats, I gave them my paw, and sat beside them, so they could pet me. Then we played “find it” where mom hides treats and I search for them. Of course the ladies had a treat hidden in their hand, and I went to them first. Then I started hunting for where mom hid the other treats. I like this game. Mom had to do a little coaxing, and saying, “Up Charlie,” so I would look up on the chair or table, or down, or under, but when I found them all, the ladies clapped for me. That made me feel special. We also practiced some of my tricks, because they are entertaining. I can do high-five, leave it, which is when mom puts treats on my paws and I can’t have them until she says, “Ok, take it!” Oh and I can wave bye, bye. When it was time for us to leave, one lady was petting me, and she said, “I love you Charlie!” That is the best feeling in the world because, FINALLY, things are starting to get back to normal.
My next few visits were even better. More people came, and we played with some of my toys, I did my tricks, and they just loved on me, and I loved them back. One lady called Momma over, and whispered, “This morning, I was a little down, but this makes me feel so much better.”
Friends, being a therapy dog, is the BEST job in the world. I can’t wait until I can go see my other friends at Cameron Hall in Ellijay, The Blue Ridge Assisted Living, and be the Reading Dog for Clear Creek Elementary School again. Go Away Covid. I want to work!
Love, Charlie The Therapy
PS: One month after going back to the Retreat at Jasper, they had to lock down due to an outbreak. Sadly, I have not been able to visit my friends since then. I hope they haven’t forgotten me. I haven’t forgotten them.