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!