Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Perri had her second night of therapy at the library tonight! I was very proud of her, she was bombproof. All of the kids were gentle with her, but a few wanted to hug her and one child actually laid on her. Perri sometimes growls at Molly when Molly lays on top of her, and I was watching Perri's reaction very closely. I am very happy to be able to make children happy and help them, but as Perri's handler, her comfort is my number one priority. (Because, when your dog is exposed to the public, the dog's comfort goes hand in hand with public safety.) Perri responded by giving more kisses and pawing the children and rolling on her back. She really seems to enjoy children so very much, and tolerates their (rude to a dog!) behavior far more than she does from Molly. Regardless, interactions like this will be under my eagle-eye and if I see an ounce of discomfort in Perri, it will have to stop.
A little boy read a book to her, and he was genuinely learning to read and struggling with some of the words. Perri would lick his hand and he would smile, or I would help encourage him through difficult words. I asked him if he was a 5th grader and he smiled and told me he was in 1st grade. His mother told me that he had been having a lot of difficulty reading and that she was very grateful to have a reading therapy dog for him to work with - I was very happy that Perri could be there for him! Since I do not have any children and this is only my first time doing reading therapy, it is hard for me to know whether I should help the child with the word or let him work his way through it and enjoy relaxing benefit of reading to a dog instead of a human. It seemed to me that helping out with the first letter was really beneficial, and not overwhelming.
Another mother asked what Perri actually does to provide therapy. This caught me off guard a little bit. I explained that Perri just lays and listens while children read to her, and that it is very beneficial in taking the stress away from children who are learning or struggling to learn how to read. I felt like I could have done a better job of explaining just how beneficial therapy dogs can be for children in this capacity, and I aim to have a more well thought out answer for the future. Because really, the point is that Perri does nothing. She is a sweet dog, a soft coat to pet. She does not judge, she does not rush, she does not laugh. She does nothing but listen, and that is therapy enough.