Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Much Love to Give

Gabby went to an all Asian retirement home today. One out of 30 people in the room could understand English. Everyone talked to Gabby in their native tongue. Gabby did not mind, she understood perfectly the affection they were giving!
Again upon getting ready, she did her 'Happy Feet' dance and barked at me! Amazing! She LOVES to go on these trips! I am so happy that she enjoys it so much.
They love to take pictures of Gabby being loved by the residents. A few of them wanted to hold her in their lap so I set Gabby in and she snuggled right up! It was adorable. The sheer delight of everyone was exciting to say the least!
The lady that could speak English explained to me that she had a dog all of her life and loves dogs so much. She was the happiest to spend time with Gabby.
After our last visit at a hospital, I was leaning more to request this type of environment but after today, I am still undecided. There are so many people out there that benefit from the love dogs give, it is difficult to decided on one particular environment still.
I was pleased with my driving skills today too! Thank God for my iPhone! Love that!!! I always feel so proud after accomplishing the hunt to locate a new place! I had to pay for parking - $3.00 for an hour - Grrrr - don't like doing that! I drove all around trying to find something on the street and NOTHING! Oh well, it was worth it!
Because we'll be heading out of town and the holidays, we are finished with our first quarter! Our next visits will be in January. Until then, Gabby will just have to give all of her love to US!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Was meant to be!!

I am so thankful to have found such a fun, rewarding hobby!!! Today really proved to me that we are doing the right thing and that Gabby was meant to be a Therapy Dog!

We went to a hospital type setting with patients recovering from surgery, not quite ready to go home yet. So, that meant that Gabby was able to sit on a lot of BEDS!!! Something that she knows is a big TREAT!!! She LOVED it and behaved soooooo well!! 

One lady had Gabby on her bed, her legs were slightly elevated by a pillow.  It did not take long for Gabby to snuggle in, being the 'pillow queen' that she is and almost fall asleep!! The lady was so pleased, she is a dog lover and has 3 dogs of her own!! While laying there, the lady said, "It does something right here (and pointed to her heart) to me." WOW! THAT was soooo remarkable to hear!! Goal achieved! Touch someone's heart and the day is GLORIOUS!!! 

Another lady held Gabby while in her wheel chair, again Gabby closed her eyes and was very relaxed.  This lady said, "She is not a dog, she is a baby!!" She cooed and cradled Gabby like she WAS a baby and of course Gabby just LOVED every minute of it! 

We are home now and Gabby is fast asleep. Tuckers her out! ME TOO! I think I'll grab her and snuggle on the couch for a few minutes, being so blessed with my joyous, thankful heart!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out of the mouths of the Elderly

Our appointment was for 1:30 on Monday, November 16.  Seemed like a good time for me....I could get my run with hubby in the morning, have some lunch, then dip out for a bit.  Not sure if it was the best time for Gabby though.  I think it cut into her afternoon napping....she seemed a little more tired while on the job.

We arrived, signed in and met the Activity Coordinator in the large Activity room.  There were probably 20 people in wheelchairs waiting for Gabby to arrive! Since they cannot bend over, I had to pick Gabby up (all 20 lbs. of her!!!) and hold her close to each person.  Most wanted to pet her, of course there were the few that shook their heads, "NO" - I will never understand that one!! 

I think one of the things I love the most about taking Gabby as a Therapy Dog is to hear the wisdom spoken from our elderly population!

One lady, out of the blue, told me she was mad at God.  She proceeded to tell me, she was "Made at God for making man with a penis! That is why I stayed single all of those years, I hate that penis!"  OH MY!!! I wanted to cover Gabby's ears and shout, "Not in front of the baby!!!" hahahaha.  It was pretty funny and it took all I had to say, "Oooohhh, OK." 

One lady spoke Croatian to Gabby as she was petting her, I think Gabby understood better than I did! 

We stayed for about 45 minutes, making our way through the large room.  Everyone thought Gabby was so beautiful.  Another lady made the comment to Gabby, "Why Gabby, you have such a SMART haircut! I like it!!"  

Since we were close to Vasi's Preschool, I called her,  and she was able to take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee at the cafe on the corner.  Gabby sat at my feet, looking out the window at the passersby.  One and a half hours later, Gabby pawed at my leg, she was done, she wanted to go home.

We'll see how this time frame works for the afternoon.  I'll pay close attention next time we are in the afternoon and see if she is too tired again.  Maybe I'll have to change it to mornings only.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


So today Gabby had her 2nd job. We were assigned to a retirement home.  The complex was about 10 stories high and our job was to visit the 2nd floor.

First I had to find parking. My biggest pet peeve is having to pay for parking - I would rather walk a mile than pay for parking.  The complex was off of Geary - a pretty major thoroughfare in the city. Thankfully, I found FREE parking about 2 blocks off of Geary so I was happy! Having to locate the different destinations have made me learn more about the city so that has been a blessing. Slightly aggravating at times, but a big learning experience for me and that is good!

We started in the 'Activity Room' where about 6 women were sitting in wheelchairs.  They all loved Gabby, petting her, asking questions about her breed and such.  We entertained them with the 'sit', 'lay down' and 'tell me a story' commands and they loved it.  The women were all very lucid, laughing and enjoying the time together. It was great fun!

After spending 15 minutes here, we traveled room to room, visiting about 20 individuals.  It was a very clean environment, very impressive.  Most rooms were decorated with family photos, and personal belongings so I am to assume it to be a retirement long term care facility.

I saw a few men walking around but mainly women. Not sure if this was a ladies only floor or if women really do out live men THAT much? I don't know.

There were a few women that I hope to remember. One being a beeeeeeaaaauuuuuutiful lady. She was very thin, was lying in bed but sat right up when we approached.  She was wearing a beautiful white long sleeved nightgown and had a really nice white sweater over her shoulders. Her hair was pure white and combed nicely too.  She asked if Gabby could be placed on her bed next to her so I did.  Gabby laid down and loved the special treatment!! She kept telling Gabby she was a good dog. She asked a lot of questions about Gabby and we talked for about 10 minutes. She was so happy and delightful!! 

We continued making our rounds.  Most of the time, I would hold Gabby in a position with her back against me, her four legs out in front of her so people could hold her paws and pet her belly - one of her favorite positions.  She also enjoys it when she is on her back in my arms and her head dangles upside down. Everyone always laughs at this and cannot believe she likes to be held in such a manner. 

We worked from 1:30 - 3:00!! I could tell Gabby was starting to get tired.  In the last room, a lady was in a chair with her feet on the floor. Gabby laid down right over her feet and the lady could reach down and pat her.  She said, "I would want a dog if I could have one just like this." It was so adorable. 

We ARE blessed to have such a good little dog. The most common word used among the women today were, "She looks so happy!" And, ya know? She WAS!!!  I was very proud of her today - as usual....always a good feeling to watch people smile and enjoy her as much as we do.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gabby's FIRST Job!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kind of fitting that it is my stepson's 11th Birthday today; it will be easy for me to remember our very first outing! We signed up to work twice a month for the next quarter.  I felt it was important to see how Gabby enjoyed her new 'job' and break her in slowly.  

Our trainer suggested that I use a 'special' leash, different from her normal walking leash and hang it in a different spot, away from the other leash so Gabby can learn the difference between going on a 'normal' walk and getting ready for 'work'.  In a few weeks, we'd like to hope that Gabby gets excited when I open the closet and grab her 'work' leash.

We were assigned to a place on Mission Street - an area in San Francisco where a lot of homeless and less fortunate people live.  Gabby and I arrived about 10 minutes early and were introduced to the receptionist and a few office workers. We were told it was a Psychiatric Day Clinic.  People with problems could come to this place, receive counseling and a meal.  A group of 15 people were in a room, eating their lunch when we arrived.  Gabby seemed happy, tail wagging upon our arrival to meet our new friends.

We were told that the patients may need some coaxing and discussion to feel accepted by us, as newcomers to their group.  We sat on a couch in the corner and patients interested could come over and see us.  

The most memorable story I wish to recall from this particular visit is when a woman came to our little corner.  She sat down next to us on the couch, Gabby rolled over onto her back and licked the women's fingers.  The woman smiled, giggled and said in a very happy voice, "Gabby likes me!!! She likes me!! She kissed me!! She likes me!!"  See, that is all we want...for someone to like us. It was really cool to watch and be a part of something that made this woman smile for a few minutes in her day!

We stayed for about 50 minutes.  Gabby was very comfortable and would lay on her back to allow people to rub her belly, and pat her head. I told funny Gabby stories and everyone laughed.  

As in many things, when we volunteer in hopes to help someone, to give our time to others, and in the end, THEY turn out to be much more of a blessing in OUR own lives!  It was a delight to be a part of  their day - it did my soul good and I think Gabby walked out feeling pretty happy herself!

October 20, 2009 - Shadowing

Before I could take Gabby on her own to her first 'job', I had to leave Gabby home and 'shadow' a veteran dog owner and her AAT dog. 

I took the bus to a six story rehabilitation center.  I met the trainer and her dog in the lobby and walked up to the 4th floor.  Most of the patients were recovering from surgery and in hospital beds. Each floor had about 25 patients.  The 'Activity Coordinator' accompanied us to the different rooms, asking if they wanted a dog visit.  Most said yes, but some said NO! We talked to many people about dogs, the weather and such. We went up to the 5th floor, did the same thing, up to the 6th, then down to the 2nd. All in all we met with about 30 patients and it took about 1.5 hours!!! The visits usually last about 30 - 60 minutes - today was an exceptional day!! 

The patients really enjoyed the visit with the dog and the interaction with us too!  They seemed to forget about their own problems for that short time while loving and stroking the dog.  It was really good to watch!! Many patients would recall and talk about when they had a dog.

We departed, having a full heart that we made a few people smile today! I looked forward to Gabby and I having many years of service!


While picking my stepson Taylor up from school in the Fall of 2008, we met 'Lucy the Therapy Dog'.  I was intrigued by this title and asked more questions.  Come to find out, the San Francisco SPCA visits up to 100 different locations, providing 40,000 visits to patients in hospitals, convalescent homes, retirement homes, psychiatric wards and children's hospitals.  I thought, "When we move to SF, this would be something I could look into.

Well, we made the transition and now I was ready to look into this further. We learned that we needed to go through four 'Training Classes' (and spend $150) to determine if Gabby had what it took to become an Animal Assisted Therapy Dog - AAT. On September 16, 2009 we began our training classes with the SF SPCA. 

First Class - We discussed the job, personality of the dog required, and the first command needed - LEAVE IT.  This is the most important command in case food or medication drops on the floor, our animal cannot pick it up.  We were to practice this for the big test next week.

Second Class - Had to pass the 'Leave It' Command and pass the 'Man Handling'.  This was when the trainer took each dog, one-on-one and grabbed, tugged, manipulated the dog to see if it had any quirks. 

Third Class - Introducing wheel chairs, canes and walkers to see if the dog reacts negatively. Some dogs FREAK when these items approach.

Fourth Class - Gabby passed all of the requirements so we had GRADUATION!  We went to an upscale home for the elderly - and our dogs were able to interact for the first time with men and women in wheel chairs.

In the end, there wasn't a lot of 'Training' as I had assumed.  If the dog enjoys being around others, and doesn't have any 'hang ups', it can be a Therapy Dog.  Gabby is very loving, gentle and enjoys people sooooo much, we knew she was right for the job.

 On Graduation Day!