I love animals, and especially dogs. When I was training at The Clifton Practice back in 2010 I was delighted to find they had two small dogs at the clinic that would hang out with us during training. I loved them! They would sit on my knee during the lectures and go into trances when we did. I asked our tutor David Newton (who the dogs belonged to), if they were there when clients there. He told me they were, and how great animals are at calming people down and getting them in a relaxed state of mind before therapy.
When I first qualified I had a lovely old Staffordshire Bull Terrier called Tara, and true to David’s word, clients loved her. She would always answer the door with me, demanding a fussing before I took them into the therapy room – being a snuffly old staffy, she was too noisy to ever come into the therapy room with them. It served as a great ice-breaker for nervous clients and even if they weren’t ready to open up about what they wanted help with, they were usually ready to open up about their love of dogs or tell me about any pets they had at home.
Unfortunately Tara the therapy dog passed away in 2014, and for a while I didn’t have a friendly furry secretary. However early in 2015 my mum called me to tell me about some little Yorkshire Terriers that needed rehoming. They had been used as breeding dogs but the owners had split up and they needed a new home now. I went to visit, not sure I really wanted a tiny dog, but when I got there, Rosie jumped into my arms and I knew I had to take her home.
She was in a bit of a sorry state. She was quite old and had many puppies, and needed a hysterectomy. All her teeth were rotten and she couldn’t eat very well. She was very timid as well. Thanks to the very friendly and professional administrations of Eastville Vetinary Practice, she got a proper old-lady makeover, had all her bad teeth removed, her necessary surgery and I got her groomed and cleaned up. Within a few weeks she was like a new dog and not nearly as timid as she’d once been.
Rosie is now one of the happiest little dogs you could meet. She loves rolling on her back for tummy rubs and cuddles. She’s also more than happy to put on cute little outfits (which my younger clients love). We have a fantastic bond and she’s one of the things in my life that helps me relax, through our daily walks and cuddles – she hates me looking at a computer screen though.
But most of all she has become Tiny Therapy Dog™. She often greets my clients at the door, but she sometimes has a place in the therapy room too. If I know my client is a dog lover, and they are feeling particularly anxious then Rosie will sit on their lap to help them feel calmer; and they can give her a smooth, which she loves. If I have a child client who is shy about opening up, they can talk to Rosie instead. If someone gets tearful, they only need to look at Rosie doing her trademark rolly-pollies to go from crying to laughing and soon they are able to talk again.
There have been many studies done into the therapeutic qualities of being around animals and having pets; and they have been linked to lowering stress, helping with depression, anxiety and even calming children with learning difficulties. Schemes like Dementia Dog and Pets as Therapy link up therapy dogs with those suffering from dementia and other mental illness. For people who love dogs and need some pet therapy in their life but can’t have a pet for whatever reason, there are schemes such as Borrow my Doggy that links people up with pet owners for walking and dog sitting. Pet sanctuaries also often have schemes for volunteer dog walkers and cat cuddlers; if I have a client who likes animals but doesn’t have one, I often recommend looking into these options.
Rosie has become part of my therapy room; she can’t wait for clients to arrive each day. Clients love her and she keeps me calm and happy. She may only be tiny, but she’s a big help to me.