We got started by having a freshly groomed Pyr that was just too gorgeous to take straight home. My daughter and I took him for a walk and were walking past the local nursing home when she suggested we take Bear in and see if we could visit some residents with him.
I walked in first, without the dog and asked the woman at the desk if we could bring a big, gentle, well-mannered dog in to visit. I gestured toward Bear, and as her eyes followed my gesture, she gasped and said “Bring him in!”
As all eyes and attention turned to the Great Pyrenees standing quietly in the lobby, a nurse asked “Can I walk him around?” Knowing my dog was trustworthy, quiet and well-trained, I said “Sure,” handed her the leash and then asked another nurse if there was paperwork that should be filled out so that we could bring him in any time. There was a “Volunteer Form” to fill out, which I did as I watched Bear disappear down the hall and turn into room after room.
Bear is wonderful at visits like this. With his gentle and quiet demeanor, he slowly walks up to each bed, chair or wheelchair and stands with his head close to their hand. He seems to know whether to rest his head on their knee or not. He will stay very still as we speak with each person, telling them his name and what kind of dog he is, and then we may stay to tell about the Great Pyrenees breed. Not everyone can express if they want the dog near them or not. Some hands we gently take and place on Bear’s head. Bear doesn’t drool or lick, which is a good thing.
We visited every room on three floors, using the elevator or stairs. The only negative experience was when one of the doors opened by the nurse set off an ear-piercing alarm which I am sure hurt Bear’s ears. I will make very sure that this does not ever happen again.
We are quite popular now and visit as often as we can. When we arrive, I give them my name, tell them why we are here and direct them to the completed volunteer form, as it is not always the same people working.
I have had Certified Therapy Dogs in the past. Given the training and testing procedure, I am not sure that Bear would pass the Sit, Stay and Come requirements, especially since this is often done at an outdoor, unfenced facility. It makes me very nervous, so I prefer to visit this way.
— by Elise Able
Elise Able is an NGPR volunteer and president of Fox Wood Wildlife Rescue,
http://foxwoodrehab.typepad.com/. Fox Wood is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit
wildlife rehabilitation facility, education center and sanctuary located
in East Concord, NY. Elise is a highly regarded writer and speaker
on Eastern coyote and red fox behavior and rehabilitation.