Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n06)
Howling at the Moon by Susan Smith
posted: Mar. 23, 2007
"When people ask me for his breed,
I do not know or care:
He has the beauty of them all
hidden beneath his hair."
So reads my favorite quote from Herbert Asquith, "The Hairy Dog". It says it all when people come up and ask me about my mixed breed, Patty. We think she is part Basset Hound because of her length and weight (40 lbs.), however we are not sure where she gets her long white hair. She is cute and a real chick magnet; women flock around her to find out what kind of dog she is. Because she is a cute dog, attracts people and can't seem to get enough attention, we thought she might make a good pet therapy dog. So we looked into it.
We took her to obedience training and put her to the test. That was a challenge because she wanted all the attention and didn't like the other dogs. Going for a walk down the Monon Trail has always been difficult, and she has to be on the outside of the fence, looking in, at the Broad Ripple Bark Park. So, it was no surprise that she would disrupt the classes every time until she settled down and realized that she wasn't the only student. After she graduated the instructors felt she might be ready to try a hospital visit. We figured she'd be sent home as soon as she got there because she was to meet in the lobby at Community Hospital with the other therapy dogs and it was anybody's guess at how she would tolerate them. The biggest challenge was riding up together on the elevator, with eight dogs, to the patient's floor (she went up alone the first time).
Like all hospital volunteers, she had to have a picture ID and distinguishing clothing. My husband was issued his volunteer shirt and Patty, her colorful scarf. Sitting for her photo was another challenge. It seems the set-up is to have the volunteer pooch sit in a chair in front of the camera. This was a wheeled desk chair that Patty just couldn't fit in, and it kept rolling. It took several attempts and was quite funny. Now she parades the hospital floors with her photo ID and looks quite official.
Patty has proved to be a wonderful, loving therapist. She works the floors at Community East on Thursday evenings and is a popular request from long term patients. She has become one of the favorites of nurses and doctors. She is invited to come up on patients' beds, which she loves. Some nights she visits with as many as thirty patients.
If you have a loving pet that you would like to share with others, many obedience schools can offer the proper training. For our family it has been a rewarding experience of reaching out and offering cheer and company to those who need it.
Susan Smith is a life-long area resident and is the owner of City Dogs Grocery located at 52nd and College. Send your pet related questions/comments to susan@BroadRippleGazette.com