When we first got Tilly several months ago, she was so sweet and gentle that it seemed like she could be a comfort to others as she has been for us. After nursing her back to health physically, I went about contacting a group here in Houston called Faithful Paws. Faithful Paws' mission is to bring trained animals into hospitals, nursing homes and rehab facilities in order to administer therapy to adults and children. The therapy can be as simple as letting a patient pet a dog, or letting the patient work on fine motor skills by brushing the dog.
Animal assisted therapy is recognized as being both therapeutic and recreational. Health care professionals have noticed and documented the therapeutic effect of animal companionship, such as relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and raising spirits. In recent years, therapy dogs have even been enlisted to help children overcome speech and emotional disorders. (Wow.)
Before attending the first training class, the Amazing Reese and I were invited to participate in a "blessing of the animals." There were dogs of all description, birds, cats, mice, hamsters, and even a turtle in attendance, all with their humans, of course. After a short outdoor service that included a homily, a few prayers, and singing All Things Bright and Beautiful, we all lined up with our pets for a blessing by the preacher dude. Here, the preacher dude (priest?) has just finished blessing Tilly in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Amen.)
The preacher dude (minister?) couldn't stop gushing over how beautiful and sweet Tilly is. (She is.) Teasingly, I said, "I bet you say that to all the dogs." (He doesn't.)
Tilly did surprisingly well at our first class last week, considering she was basically new at all of the skills. (Sit. Down. Stay. Tilly, come! Good girl.) We've been working hard all week long, taking advantage of every opportunity to practice in public. (Sit. Down. Stay. Tilly, come! Good girl.) Tilly excels at giving unconditional love....or at least the dog form of unconditional love. She'll let you tug her ears and tail, hug, and pet her ad infinitum. The hardest discipline for Tilly, and what we've specifically been working on this week, is over-reacting when she sees a cat or a squirrel. (Tilly, look at me.) And me? Sympathetic to her natural instincts, I have to train MYSELF to train her to not react in those situations. (Good girl, Sarah.)