A month ago I’d never heard of a therapy dog.
Rescue dogs, pot-sniffing dogs, police dogs. Yes.
War dogs, cadaver dogs, A Guide Dog for the Blind. Yes.
Pet dogs, hunting dogs, and lately bombsniffers.
But until Colleen Rae—yes, the same Colleen Rae whose comments enhance this blog—sent me a copy of her latest book Shiloh Speaks: A Therapy Dog’s Memoir of Unconditional Love, I knew nothing of therapy dogs.
Colleen co-authored the book about a golden retriever owned by Jerry Hill. Jerry, Shiloh’s owner, had scores of stories in search of a writer. Colleen and Jerry collaborated to produce a collection of short tales about Shiloh’s twelve-year career.
Shiloh and Jerry go to work a couple of days a month at hospices, bereavement centers, and assisted care homes. They bring cheer and affection to people whose lives are winding down, to people who are dealing with loss, and to people whose health has endured a major whack. Many people have little to look forward to except the next visit of a furry friend. People who may have little left to be appreciated for except a dog luxuriating in having his ears scratched.
Dogs are ideal employees. They have no hidden agendas, no language barriers, and they like going to work. Dogs don’t watch the clock, are equal-opportunity employees, and work for biscuits.
Shiloh has many stories that will push your warm buttons. My favorite is about Rita, a timid, blind woman at a senior center. For years Rita never spoke until she met Shiloh. Stroking Shiloh, Rita uttered her first words: “Rita happy. Rita loves Shalow.”
Shiloh Speaks is available at http://www.shilohspeaksthebook.com/ as well as Amazon.
My friends in The Villages are retired veterinarians, and when I initiated a conversation about therapy dogs, I got an abbreviated seminar that stretched my mind.
Lyn tells me epileptics have dogs who are able to anticipate a seizure.
She tells me there is much documentation for dogs diagnosing cancer, especially breast cancer.
I learned that of all service dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind need to achieve the highest skill of all—that of informed disobedience.
Yesterday, I tagged along with a new friend, Tucker, an apricot-colored therapy poodle, on his shift at a specialty care center in Lady Lake, Florida. We’ll try to have the story filed in time for the evening news.