Thursday, December 15, 2016

Doggy Language- What is a Therapy Dog?

December 15, 2016
Kerrie Jo Larson, CSAC 

Doggy Language- What is a Therapy Dog?

Hi. My name is Cash. Most of you know me from hanging around the clinic here at Esprit, I started my career at a young age. 
From the age of 8 weeks until I was about 16 weeks, I spent half the time at the clinic swaddled.  I got to get out occasionally, but mostly I had to sleep.  Something about puppies needing 15-18 hours of sleep a day until they are older.  So, then I had to take a break for a while because I was too big to swaddle anymore and mom said I needed sleep and play. 
Just after his really cool day when I got lots of gourmet treats, which I heard them call a birthday, I got to start coming back to the clinic again. And guess what?  Everyone remembered me!  They were so excited to see me, they remembered how cool I was!
I love all the places I get to go, I have met so many cool people.  Humans are easy, they just love me right away, I don’t even have to do anything.
The nursing homes and library are great, although I love going to Esprit the best.  I have all my own stuff there.  On breaks I even get to go outside and stalk the squirrels.  It’s a great stress reliever. 
Speaking of stress, you should probably know, it’s kind of like the sleep thing. I keep hearing human talk about stress levels and self-care.  These counselors take things pretty seriously.  Just because I started exploring the office during a session, and stuck my head in a garbage can doesn’t mean I am stressed.  And if you didn’t want me to try to launch myself on the bookcase, you should not have put the bag of treats there.  Fine, I might have been a little stressed, but who doesn’t turn to food in those moments?

So here is the deal.  When I get a little sassy or I have an off day, I wind up having to stay home a lot more.   So, I put together a list of things that help me stay calm and cool.  It would be great if you could help me out, that way I can hang out more often.

1.   There is a rule that I cannot ever lead the way into a room, my human must lead and then I get to go to.  When the door opens and you get all excited and start talking to me in that voice that lets me know you love me, you really love me, I get so excited!  Psst…I get docked for that so if you could play it a little cooler, it would help me out a lot.
2.  Um that means playing it cool when approaching me too.  It feels a little forward, especially if we have just met, for you to come straight at me.   A side approach is even better if it’s our first meeting and if you stare at me it feels awkward.  We must get to know each other a bit better first.
3.  Please check with my mom first.  I get extra treats when I remember to lock eyes with her and get my own kind of permission, she might give you some too if you remember to ask if you can pet me. 
Even though I am a therapy dog and I am pretty used to being this awesome, after a long visit or long day at the office, sometimes I get a little cautious.  You humans don’t walk around hugging strangers, and don’t get me wrong, I love the attention, but sometimes we must rein it in just a little.
4.  Oh, and speaking of boundaries, if you wouldn’t mind not reaching over my head, that would be great.  I love my chin and my chest scratched, that makes me melt.  But when you start reaching over my head…well again…we must slow things down a bit.
5.  Wait for me to get the go ahead to greet you.  I was born for this stuff.   I love to hang out with everyone I meet, so don’t worry, as soon as I get the green light, I am yours. Especially if you could grab a few treats from the bookcase, after asking permission of course.
6.  If I back away from you or lay down to go to sleep for a bit don’t take it personal.  Just last week I was surrounded by 4 wheelchairs in this other place, and alarms were going off, people were coming and going, it was a crazy place.  And I fell asleep right in the middle of that nursing home, surrounded by people talking to me and loving me.  Sometimes I just get tired.
7.  Oh, and one last one, please don’t put your face by mine.  I see humans doing it and they seem happy about this.  For us dogs, it’s just weird and awkward. 
So, that’s pretty much it.  That is my self-care plan.  I get so excited when we turn the corner by the office, I can barely stand it.  I am getting to know those other places we go too and each place has awesome people that love me!  So, give me a paw…er, hand in this so I can hang out lots, ok? 

Kerrie Jo Larson, CSAC is co-owner of Esprit Counseling and Consulting in Neenah, WI. Kerrie is also a counselor with a passion for helping people restore balance and health to their lives. As a counselor, educator, coach and trainer, she is involved in your community and works for overall wellness on multiple levels. She has been a counselor in the field of addictions since 1996 and has worked in a variety of settings with a wide range of experience. She is extremely passionate about utilizing dogs in the therapeutic setting. Kerrie has several dogs that are trained, or are in the process of training to become certified therapy dogs. Her knowledge and expertise in this area add a unique and comprehensive perspective to the Esprit Clinic. To schedule an appointment with Kerrie, please go to and schedule today.