“The more stressed the parent is, the more pleased they are to see the dog.”
Name: Wendy and Wolfie
Type of dogs: Poodle
Visits: Children’s hospital
Volunteering: 1 year
Why: Initially I thought this would be a fun activity for me and my dog but it has brought so much more to my life.
Enjoys most: Apart from sharing the pleasure of having a friendly fluffy dog that does tricks, this activity reminds me to stay focused on the more important things in life.
Dog enjoys: The treats and attention
Reaction: Sometimes people are incredulous – “that’s not something you see everyday!” but usually it brings a smile to their face.
What has surprised me most is how much the parents appreciate a visit. The more stressed the parent is, the more pleased they are to see the dog. He is a cheerful reminder of their ‘normal’ lives outside of the hospital.
Wolfie makes good use of the tricks he has learnt. The children especially love when he does a high five, shakes a paw, says please, jumps through a hoop, or “puts away his toys”. By using hand signals I can usually ensure that he will respond to even the shyest child when they ask him to ‘sit’.
Experiences: Just after we started with the program we met a teenager who had been in a serious accident. I could see by the numerous photos at his bedside that he had been a very active and popular boy. At our first few visits, Billy’s parents tried vainly to get him to look at Wolfie, but he showed little recognition of anything around him. Over the following months he slowly improved. He gained some mobility in one arm and could communicate a little by giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. A month ago his dad told us they would finally be taking Billy home. They might even get him a dog. He still doesn’t speak, and has very limited mobility but by the time he was discharged he did come to recognise us and smile at our visits.
What is funny is the number of people who have asked “Is it real?” and they’re taking about the dog! It would seem that there are lots of people who have never seen a live poodle before and somehow think he might be a toy.
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