Monday, July 20, 2009

Therapy Dog in the Making

This afternoon, as I took Jazz out to relieve him, we heard children screaming from the yard. Jazz's ears perked up inquisitively. As he is typically nestled away in our quiet office, he had yet to hear the sound of unhappy children. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to introduce him to his job of "therapy dog."

Jazz and I walked over to the yard, where two children, each in separate areas, were highly escalated, crying and screaming. Multiple staff were trying to calm the children. As we approached, Jazz continued to demonstrate curiosity at the situation. He maintained full confidence, and cocked his ears as if he were trying to figure out what this new sound was. The child closest to us caught sight of Jazz, and was instantly distracted, running towards us, excitedly yelling, "A puppy!" Jazz stepped his front paws up on the rail of the fence and stuck his nose between the links, giving the girl a big kiss on the face as she greeted him through the fence.

He got it right.

The girl sat down and began to pet Jazz through the fence, begging for kisses. She remained calm and safe, and followed directions. After a few minutes, I felt comfortable taking Jazz inside the yard with her, and so, we ventured in. We sat in the grass for a while, Jazz rolling around, kicking his legs wildly as she scratched his belly, and watching her intently as she made funny noises at him. The girl, who normally requires constant staff attention and redirection for her unsafe and inappropriate behaviors, sat on the grass next to Jazz, playing appropriately with him, smiling, and following directions beautifully.

As I walked Jazz back to the office to recoup from the heat and finish my work, I couldn't help but be proud. The kids have a therapy dog again :)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sleeping...and Growing

Since Jazz has a bit more pizazz than Ross, he's spent more time just hanging out in the office learning how to be a good Guide Dog than hanging out with the kids. Jazz is a good puppy, he's just... a puppy. He sleeps a lot, plays hard, and gets overstimulated easily. The kids (and staff) still love him, and the biggest problem right now is that he is SO cute, and they feel so special when he greets them excitedly, that I have to be able to focus on training the people while I'm trying to train the puppy to not do what the people encourage him to do :)

Jazz is gradually learning that work means more than just sleeping on his fluffy bed in the office. He has attended some meetings, and is finally starting to settle down on his own (never mind that it's usually about 1 minute before the meeting ends). He sometimes accompanies me to therapy sessions, and keeps the mood light by rolling around, and attempting to eat any spot on the floor. He served as emotional support for an adolescent girl getting her blood drawn a couple of weeks ago. And although all he did was hang out, she was so highly amused by my stories of him eating my slippers and flip flops that she temporarily forgot about the needle in her arm.

The other day, one of the girls at work asked if she could earn to come visit Jazz in the office, since he isn't ready to visit on the units yet (it's way too much stimulation for him at this point). We discussed a plan, and as I walked back to my office, she shouted after me, "You know what a good excuse is?" Not understanding what she was talking about, I replied, "What?" "He's sleeping," she replied back in a sarcastic tone :) (Referring to the fact that whenever I don't have my dog with me and the kids ask where he is, I tell them that he's in the office sleeping - which is true. Jazz sleeps his days away while he's growing, Ross was just plain lazy.) This is the same girl who, when Ross and I met her just a few months ago, would hang her head and refuse to speak; the same girl who he sat next to and guarded as she decompressed from an aggressive episode; the same girl who now initiates conversations, jokes with staff, and seeks out rewards for making progress in her treatment.

Jazz is a different spirit than Ross. Ross had an amazing natural talent for understanding people and knowing exactly what they needed. With Jazz, it's all about him. He loves people, mostly because he thinks it's cool that everyone is there to see HIM. He doesn't know the difference between a scared, depressed, girl and an impulsive, aggressive, boy. He only knows that they all love him and want to play with him. It's a naivety that can only make you smile.